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The only example I had seen was a large curvy hour-glass-shaped hull being built at the Boat Building Academy in Lyme Regis, Dorset by a chap called Gary from Northern Ireland. However since then I had decided I should build a flat-bottomed boat with chine runners from a sheet material like plywood – this is much easier for an amateur. He would later do the same on the inside, completing a strong but lightweight composite hull. If I could design a boat with a less complex shape I might get away with less moulds, maybe even just the bulkheads, and have less hassle balancing cramps and weights. The effect of the foam core and the two laminate skins is the same in principle as an I-beam for increasing strength and stiffness.
The strength of the hull increases up to a certain thickness of foam core (I’d like to know what that critical thickness is). A typical plywood cruising boat like the Paradox is effectively complete and sailable when the plywood is all planked up and glued. In a small boat without standing headroom the sandwich construction will give me the strength and stiffness I need to be able to sit directly on the inside of the hull, doing away with the complexity of adding floors and a cabin sole.
Marine plywood may look more natural, but cut through it and of course it’s actually several veneers of wood glued together with a weatherproof glue like epoxy. One alternative suggested on the UK Home Boat Builder’s Rally Forum was to use Finnish birch plywood instead. We might temper this argument by considering that not all plywood boats get glass fibre and epoxy sheathing both inside and out, and because the insulation is not structural, and the plywood offers a little insulation, less dense and less quantity of plastic foam core need be used. The other revelation has been that a foam core composite boat is not necessarily much more difficult to build than a plywood one.
Undeterred, I spent quite a while scouring the internet, and lo and behold, I found marine-grade closed-cell foam core made from recycled plastic bottles! Only for very big project we can discuss about producing foam made from second generation PET.
There may be another way out, or at least a reasonable compromise, to build a hard chined boat with a long life expectancy and a relatively small ecological footprint: light metal composite. The other issue I have with aluminium is that it is an excellent thermal conductor, exactly the opposite of what I want in my hull.
I’ve used heavy scantlings in my workings, I think if I made better calculations the foam core glass sandwich would have a better strength to weight ratio than the aluminium-foam combination.
I have helped my father build a sailboat hull with basicaly the same method that Yrvind uses. However I would not want to live in a solid wooden boat because it’s high maintenance, prone to rot and leakage, which in the long run can require more energy and less sustainable materials in upkeep. Quality mahogany marine plywood, well treated, has a high resistance to rot, but would still need some care and attention to antifouling. I concede that a plywood boat could be the easiest build, especially the stich and glue type, and I would get to work with wood. I realised that any kind of wooden boat will require paint, varnish and antifouling, and with the abuse I’m likely to give it on my beach invasion adventures would probably benefit from a thick layer of glass fibre and epoxy on the bottom.
That’s when I realised why experienced boat builders like Sven Yrvind choose a foam core fibreglass sandwich construction technique. It’s sandwiched between layers of fibreglass sheet saturated in epoxy, more layers in areas of expected abrasion or stress.
The result is a boat that’s warm, light, strong, stiff, will not rot, is low maintenance, and all parts of the hull are multifunctional.
When I discovered that I could source marine grade boat builder’s foam made from recycled plastic bottles from Armacell in Germany, that was just the icing on the cake. It has always been my plan to use 6mm and 9mm BS1088 Marine Plywood and since moving home have found a supplier right on my doorstep. No Blush™, on the other hand, can only be shipped by ground and only in the lower 48 states.
BASIC NO BLUSH™ - our most popular all purpose marine epoxy  resin - great value and price! When it came time to decide about epoxies, the school turned to Michael Bogoger (Dory-man) for advice.


I bought a 3 gallon kit of basic no blush 2 last summer and have been very pleased with it.
I will be ordering more soon but I'm coming up short on the curing agent, I spilled some a while back.
He had to loft it out carefully, build moulds at many stations then strip-plank it with thin strips of the closed-cell plastic foam core. What I didn’t realise is that the foam core glass fibre composite is much easier to use as a sheet material in a flat-bottomed boat with hard chines.
It’s much stronger and stiffer than a single skin of the same weight, but much much lighter than a single skin of the same thickness. The plywood hull with its frames and bulkheads must be strong and stiff enough when naked to handle the strains and stresses of its intended use. I imagine feeling very cosy and secure inside this unbroken, continuous monocoque structure where ever I end up cruising.
A good quality marine plywood boat, well constructed and protected will be immensely strong and last a lifetime.
Some argue that at least they trap carbon in an item like a boat, but wait a minute, wasn’t the carbon already trapped in the oil that was used to create these plastics and epoxies in the first place? Those veneers in the best quality marine plywood are almost invariably mahogany from tropical rainforests in Brazil, Central Africa or South-East Asia.
Two famed suppliers of the world’s highest quality marine plywood, Robbins of Bristol and Bryunzeel of Holland are now offering marine mahogany plywood with Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. It’s touted to have many of the desirable qualities of mahogany plywood, but is grown in sustainably managed forests in Scandinavia and North-Eastern Europe, where these vast forests of the stuff are not at any risk from over-logging. I asked an instructor at the Boat Building Academy about recycled foam cores because he had built foam cored ocean rowing boats and won the transatlantic race. The construction foam giant Armacell, based in MA?nster in Germany, are pioneering marine-grade foam cores made purely from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is a 100% recyclable plastic.
Roughly a welded seawater resistant aluminum alloy outer shell with a sprayed-in foam core covered by a light inner sheeting of whatever material you like. That gives 6mm or more for the bottom, 4mm for the sides and 3mm for the deck: not a big deal for an experimented alloy welder, almost indestructible, as maintenance free as a GRP-boat. I appreciate your suggestion of spraying foam insulation on the inside but I think that foam core glass sandwich construction is a much more efficient use of resources, where the hull is both the strength and the insulation.
I also think that for a small boat I could build the sandwich with much thinner skins than I’ve been proposing, but need to verify that. So it would probably end up being synthetic antifouling on the outside, wood in the middle, and closed cell foam on the inside for insulation and buoyancy in the event of flooding. Unfortunately the best plywood is made of mahogany from the tropical rainforest, which is sometimes possible to source with a sustainable forestry label, like FSC, but I question whether these ancient hardwood trees should be harvested anywhere in the next few centuries.
The plastic closed-cell foam core not only provides a complete surround of insulation with no gaps, and enough buoyancy to make the boat unsinkable, but it also forms part of the boat’s structure giving a light, stiff but strong hull. I have experience in GRP boat construction having built a mould for a 16ft boat and then gel coated, laminated etc etc to produce a one-off boat. Call it 'distributor pricing for everyone' or ' half price' epoxy - whatever floats your boat! Everybody can anatomy angstrom unit gravy boat stunned of plywood, peculiarly when you receive DIY plans with you. There followed a few days of planing and fairing, then glass fibre cloth and epoxy sheathing inside and out.
He also shares the logic and principles behind his unconventional ideas, and some fun stories from the adventures of his youth. He then sailed this 15 ft boat across the Atlantic ocean last December – another great triumph for small boat enthusiasts. Some of the designs on the internet for plywood micro-cruisers are not insulated, because they’re used for leisure purposes in warm climates. The whole hull and possibly some bulkheads made of foam core will contribute even more buoyancy in the event of the cabin flooding – with a thick enough foam core the boat will be unsinkable. I can fully understand why after fifty years of designing, building and sailing small boats in cold rough seas it has become Sven Yrvind’s favoured method of construction.


This is possible in a very small plywood boat (see Matt Layden’s Enigma), but perhaps not quite as solid. It becomes necessary to involve a larger area of the core and both skins to support any one point load.
There’s not much rainforest left, and a mahogany tree takes five hundred years to grow to any decent size suitable for harvesting.
Several high quality boats have been built to prove this, and the builders report the top end stuff to be completely devoid of voids. A real wooden boat that has zero impact on the environment is made from solid timber – not mahogany but a wood from sustainably managed forests.
There is no real need to paint the alloy on the outside, except for some kind of antifouling, nor the inside. It?s a lot of polishing, but the paradox has easy polisheable surfaces, so that will probably be fine.
He uses poly-vinyl-chloride closed-cell foam made by one of the leading manufacturers, Divinycell who are in his home country of Sweden. But insulation is paramount for me because I want to live aboard in temperate climates like in Britain. The foam adds buoyancy in the event of the cabin flooding, but it does not contribute anything to the boat’s strength or rigidity.
I want thick insulation to make my boat very thermally efficient because I’ll live aboard all year round and I like the dramatic scenery of the high latitudes like the Norwegian and Patagonian Fjords. This could be done with a backing plate or by hollowing out some of the foam core, filling the gap with epoxy then redrilling the hole. But realistically, in our modern consumer culture, how many plastic goods actually do get passed down to great-grandchildren?
However from what I’ve read its only recommended for boats that spend most of their time out of the water because of its propensity to mould and rot. If I’m not going to go to the effort of traditional solid timber construction and maintenance, I might as well build a plastic boat.
There’s no need for so many beams and frames because of the extra rigidity of the sandwich structure.
A small boat like Paradox would also need very little in the way of inside hull stiffening.
Don?t use too little epoxy on the last layer of glass fibre, because you should avoid polishing all the way down to the Glass fibre cloth when you finish up the surface. With all the low quality plywood coming in from the far east, some with a central softwood core and two out veneers yet still stamped BS1088 Marine Plywood, designers have been quick to point out that 6mm in 3 plys or with the thicker middle core are totally unsuitable for boat construction.
Each layer of the hull has a different purpose, but none of them seem to have multiple purposes, and the sum of them all is a more complex and heavier structure.
So the two boats are equally as bad, but the plywood one also involves cutting down the rainforest! We did 8 layers of polyester on the outside, it took about 50 hours of work with not much rest, and we we?re 4 people. The paradox is smaller and glass fibre is a bit easier to work with, but be prepared that it will be a marathon, and use your friends to help you. Building with foam core and epoxi is not very fun =( I personaly think that aluminium would be a great material for the Paradox, beacause the Paradox cant be too lightweight and have too much boyancy.
And it?s a recycleable material =) So maybe I will do that, depending on the cost ?? Ohh and another thing about epoxi… use plenty of protection! I would recommend not only a mask with carbon filter that covers the mouth, but rather something that covers the whole face, because the epoxi can also get into your body through the eyes.



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