Free Yacht Chapter 3: Fix Broken Stix and Other Trix




About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific...

On the maiden voyage of the free yacht I broke the tiller by standing on it. Sure it sounds dumb, but if I hadn't done that I'm sure something worse would have happened. That's the sort of relationship I have with tillers and rudders.

Continues the saga begun at How to Get a Free Yacht

epoxy pix by Nick Papadakis

Here's the broken stick we're going to fix.
If you like hospital shows, please note the comminuted fractures on the proximal end of the avulsed fragment.

continues the Free Yacht saga begun at How to Get a Free Yacht

Here's the table of contents of the whole saga:
Chapter 1: How to Get a Free Yacht
Chapter 2: Maiden Voyage of the Free Yacht
Chapter 3: Fix Broken Stix and other Trix
Chapter 4: Outboard Motor Mutilates Foot
Chapter 5: It's sinking and it's on Fire.
Chapter 6: How To Give Away a Free Yacht
Chapter 7: Get an Even Better One and Fabulize it.
Chapter 8: Celebrate Freedom
Chapter 9: Technicolor Dreamboat
Chapter 10: Privateer Knot
Chapter 11: Dismasted!
Chapter 12: Kiteboat!
Chapter 13: Mast Raising

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Step 1: Clean Out the Injury

The splinters on both sides of the break prevent the pieces from fitting together properly.
So I cleaned up the mating surfaces with a crooked knife.

Step 2: Decant Some Epoxy

Don your chemical suit (gloves and goggles) and squirt some epoxy. I get mine from US Composites in W. Palm Beach FL with metering pumps. I did half a shot each of A and B. The pumps wear out, gulp air and give you short shots unless you use the right body english. Replace them with each new jug. This is "fast" style epoxy, contrasted with "medium" and "slow". Fast means you leave it overnight before it's strong.

Don't ever use "Five Minute" epoxy for anything. It's unpatriotic, not waterproof, poisonous, bad tasting, and makes girls hate you. Avoid polyester resin also. It's not a good adhesive for most woods. This is mahogany, which means it's reddish and no one knows what species it really is, so stick with epoxy.

Step 3: Mix It Up

I like to mix epoxy, paint, and anything else with a bent wire. Size it for the job at hand. I've tried many different shapes of bent wire and have settled on the asymmetrical right angle. All other shapes are equally good. Purists don't like to beat so much air into their glue so they mix it by hand 27 strokes with a straight stick. That's good also.

Step 4: Thicken It With Flour

Add enough white flour to to thicken the stuff. Some say "like pancake batter", some say "like peanut butter". I like it in between, like organic peanut butter. The thickening keeps it from running out of the joint. The nightmare that terrorizes epoxy users is the "starved joint".

You can add fumed silica to make epoxy thixotropic (not flowing)or hollow glass or plastic microspheres to make it light and bulk it up. Wood flour is conventional for gluing applications. That's fine sanding dust. You can get it segregated by fiber length if you crave certainty and perfection. White flour is just as good. Whole wheat flour isn't. The extra vitamins make it too greasy and lumpy.

Step 5: Goober It All Up and Squish It Together

You want plenty of glue so it will squeeze out of the joint. Leave the blobs on there, because some if it will get sucked into the joint when the wood soaks up epoxy.

Step 6: Clampett

I mean clamp it. With a wrapping of innertubes. Then go home. It'll be ready in the morning. If it slides the wrong way pound in a thin little nail and leave the head exposed so you can pull it out later.

Step 7: The Next Day, Unwrap It

You just cut yourself on sharp pieces of dried glue and are bleeding all over.
That's where mahogany stain comes from.
Your hand is a mess but the tiller is looking much better.

Step 8: Sand It Flat

Grind off the glue goobers with a beltsander or other flattening device.

Step 9: Round the Hole

Chip the major goobers out of the hole with a chisel, in this case a sharpened screwdriver like Michaelangelo used to use. Then use a rasp to grind off the rest of the irregularities. Got some crutches or a ski pole I can have? I could use a handle for that rasp.

Step 10: Varnish It

Or use linseed oil. After this I chopped the brush handle short so I could leave it in the can.

Step 11: Ta Daa!

And there it is, happily on the boat and ready for action. I think I better make a spare out of ash or oak, this one seems kind of wimpy compared to what our neighbors have.

Step 12: Other Tricks: Shore Power

I had the right goofy connector so I made my own shore power adapter a.k.a pigtail.

If you unplug this, my bilge pumps stop and our boat slowly sinks at the dock.

Step 13: Ball Fenders

Storebought fenders cost mucho dinero. These two were free, work just as well, and are better tetherballs.

Step 14: Boxing Glove on Bowsprit

It definitely needed one.
Maybe the other glove should go on the boom.

Step 15: To Be Continued...

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    30 Discussions


    11 years ago on Step 11

    Great fix, it looks good! A hint though as you move along in yachting circles, you will find that most sailors who go to sea in small boats carry a spare tiller. An expensive spare tiller can be bought at West Marine for about $50 (for my boat) and will be glossy and have laminations and whatnot. A cheap spare tiller can be bought at Home Depot, but will be mislabelled as "Wheelbarrow Handles." It is handy that they only sell these spare tillers in sets of 2, and that the wood is rough hewn allowing you to sand it down to the right feel before you stain or varnish it. Also the Home Depot Spare tillers are long enough that you can cut them in half before attaching, which means you actually get 4 for the price of one!

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 11

    ROTF! Splat... Fell out of my chair! Good one Prospector!

    Thats right use the mis labled stuff from the HomeDespot and your local hardware.


    9 years ago on Step 2

    To anyone whom wants to give away a 220' sea worthy Yacht, Ship, Craft ect, or larger ;  Please Email me at , If theres one thing in life that I want to do before I go to the after life it is to live on the sea and travel till that day comes.. I wanna a Yacht !


    9 years ago on Introduction

    To anyone whom wants to give away a 220' sea worthy Yacht, Ship, Craft ect, or larger ;  Please Email me at , If theres one thing in life that I want to do before I go to the after life it is to live on the sea and travel till that day comes.. I wanna a Yacht !


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 14

    It's probably an inflatable life boat. I've seen them in packages like that.


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 14

    I think they're filled with fuel or gas, because Bobcats and Dingoes (the machinery!) use them to go forward.


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 14

    I'm familiar with bobcat's(not so much dingoes), but I've never seen them with any kind of fuel cylinder on the back. I've used forklifts that used propane cylinders, but they look totally different.

    Whatever it is, its definitely an old beer keg that could have been converted to hold diesel.


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 14

    Sorry, I meant forklifts. Hmm, I could have sworn they looked the exact same, because the ones I've seen upon the forklifts around here aren't your average propane cylinders...


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 14

    i think he said it was a beer keg filled with diesel.


    9 years ago on Introduction

     "Don't ever use 5 minute epoxy for anything. It is unpatriotic, not waterproof, poisonous, bad tasting, and makes girls hate you."

    as if the bad tasting and poisonous weren't enough to dissuade me, it's unpatriotic, and makes the girls hate me!