Congratulations to Tim Drinkall and Bill Jones, winner(s) of the Alan Chinn Award in 2021!

Tim Drinkall and Bill Jones - 17 foot timber speed boat – Comet - from an original design published in Modern Woodwork Magazine 1934.  Length: 6 metres   Beam: 125cm    Draft: 40cm

A husband and wife bought the plans (original blueprints) and built the boat, originally with an outboard, in 1939. The plans came from Modern Woodwork Magazine – a three-part series of how to build it. Once completed, the boat had two water runs and was running well, until in 1940, the motor was compulsorily acquired for the war and sent to New Guinea. So the hull sat on the floor of their Doncaster garage until bought by Tim in 2012.

Restoration started in 2016 and was completed in 2020. We bought the hull from the original builders of the boat in 2012. Tim started the restoration and Bill Jones completed it – as well as sourced an engine (Holden Grey Motor).

Stage 1 – hull completely sanded; routed out the seams, removed red lead and replaced with lathes of timber soaked in epoxy; another complete sanding. Stage 2 – fibreglassed bottom of boat with a heavy / thick sheet of fibreglass, then cross-clothed with lighter/thinner sheet of fibreglass with epoxy.
Stage 3 – sand and paint fibreglassed area with Aquacote.
Stage 4 – Send to Bill Jones.
Stage 5 – 9 coats of varnish on the outside.
Stage 6 – internals planned, adjusted, cut and finished.
Stage 7 – Engine sourced, tuned, mounted and trialled.
Stage 8 – Custom fuel tank built and fitted (75ltr), plus one-off designed and cast rudder, prop and cavitation plate.
Stage 9 top deck built and fitted + another 9 coats of varnish.
Stage 10 – all brass, windscreen and cleats fitted + seats reupholstered.
Stage 11 – water trials.
Stage 12 – thoroughly enjoying the boat

With zero carpentry or wood work experience, Tim relied heavily on others for direction, tasks and ideas – Tom Whitfield, David O’Dempsey and Bill Jones. “I was a good labourer and quickly put the hours into it, but in truth, didn’t really know what I was doing. I am very thankful for Bill Jones’ expertise, patience and perseverance to get the boat finished.”

Judges’ comments:

For the four entries this year for the Alan Chinn Award we had a judging panel of three, Greg Blunt, Paul Rubera and me. Between Covid lockdowns, on July 4th, we all met and headed off in Greg’s car, and first drove to Andrew Yen’s home in Warrandyte where we judged his and David O’Dempsey’s entries.

First Andrew’s 9 foot clinker pram “Isolde”, made during lockdown last year and he has done a good job, making an attractive boat.  Then David showed us his fold up kayak, which is the second one he has built and he went over the improvements he has made.

We then drove South to Mordialloc to the home of Tim and Sharon Drinkall to judge two entries by Tim. We first saw his 3 person kayak which was well made from a kit and also during lockdown. We then saw his second entry of “Comet” which is a 1930’s mahogany speedboat and is a combined entry from Tim Drinkall and Bill Jones. Tim told us about the work he did on routering then splining the seams and then fibre glassing and varnishing the outside hull.  Then he worked with Bill Jones on the fit out, changing her from outboard to inboard drive and redesigning the seating. Many fittings came with the boat but there was some work in sourcing the best extra fittings.  Tim even got hold of the magazines from the time which featured the Comet with plans. All of that combined with the all-around excellently finished vessel achieved the top vote.

It was not hard for us to judge that the Comet is to be the winner of the Alan Chinn Award this year.

Graham Signorini

Oh, Sharon did offer us some freshly cooked muffins which went well with a coffee on that cool and damp day.


David O’Dempsey – Fold-up Kayak

 You will all remember the article 1/2018 on building a folding kayak, but following this link -
will enable you to re-read about what Jim described as “that fabulous little boat”.

Changes from web plans: Gunwale varied;  Hinges fitted; Skeg and mountings fitted; Nylon fabric to join sides; Cross brace design improved

Following its success and the positive comments of the 8 or 9 club members who tried it out, I decided to seek an improved construction technique so that the club members queued up to build one would be encouraged.

So, what needed to be improved? Really, just one item, the tape used to hold the thing together. The stability and mobility of the kayak were excellent, but the Gorilla tape was an issue that I wanted to address, as the tape was expensive in the quantity required, and was subject to high stress from the tension in the plywood, when in assembled format. It is also relatively inflexible in cross-section, resulting in bubbles and ripples in the tape as it follows the curve of the hull. Looking at alternatives, I soon found that canvas, vinyl, and similar cloths shared the inflexibility aspect, but eventually came across some fibreglass cloth used to filter water in various commercial applications. It was strong, flexible and – used to filter water – in other words – it leaks!!! (damn!).

An answer to this problem came in the form of an industrial paint, which in industry, is applied in specific patterns on the cloth so that the water/liquid will only penetrate at the desired areas. If it worked in industry, maybe it would also seal the joins on the kayak!  A donation of copious quantities of cloth and sealer (yes, I have enough for many kayaks) was received and used.

For this model, I also bought some aluminium piano hinge, cut small hinge lengths from it, and pop-riveted 5 hinges per side. The hinges take a lot of the stress, and also cope with vertical pressure when you lever yourself in and out of the boat. I did have to clamp plastic strip covered pieces of MDF over the material to ensure it stayed flat whilst curing, and that worked successfully.

The raw edge of the filtration material was sealed with the water-proofer, and a layer of gorilla tape overlaid on both sides (to be sure, to be sure!).

The cross brace design was also modified to simplify location in the brace mountings.

Is the Kayak 2 successful? Of course! We have another useful and fun-to-use little boat.


Tim Drinkall - 3-person Pygmy Osprey Kayak
Length: 7 metres   Beam: 85cm   Draft: 15cm   Stitch-and-glue, pre-cut kit

I’d purchased the Osprey kit over 11 years ago and had not started it until lockdown and when finished the powerboat. It’s the first real project I’d started/completed and my carpentry skills were very rudimentary. I had used fibreglass and epoxy before but never stitch and glue or rudder design.

The 36 pieces of 4mm ply came laser cut in the kit. Used stitch and glue to fasten three individual pieces at a time, to form 12 long panels (each roughly 7m long). Then created two halves to the boat using stitch and glue – hull and top deck. Had to join by fibreglassing the top to the hull. Both halves have been fibreglassed with epoxy inside and out. I had to then design, develop and build a foot rudder for the boat – no plans or pieces came with the kit. Using photos and a rough guide from Jim Stockton’s kayaks, I set about making my own. End result works really well.


Andrew Yen – Isolde - 9’ clinker ply rowboat/tender in a Norwegian pram style.

When the government issues an edict to “stay at home” it is clearly code for “stay at home and build a boat” …  So I did as I was told.

My Iso-girl “Isolde” was built during the periods of lockdown and isolation from left over sheets of bunnings marine ply, left over epoxy and left over paint. I had found a lovely old Australian Red Cedar mantlepiece in a wreckers yard for $60 , and this will make the thwarts. She is a 9’ clinker ply rowboat/tender in a Norwegian pram style. I find the clinker ply construction attractive and in many ways less demanding than stitch and glue. All the laps are glued with thickened epoxy and no fibreglass is required.

The design is loosely based on John Brooks’ Compass Harbor Pram – but I have deviated along the way as my fancy took me. Prams are easier to build than boats with stems but there is always the criticism that the front transom or prow impedes progress whenever it hits a wave. What I like about this design is the high angled front transom. It should keep above most of the chop of Port Philip and when I bring it up to the beach I am hoping it will be easier to get ashore without getting my shoes wet.

The project is a $60 three or four month build. During much of the project it was impossible to source any tools or materials other than what I had in the shed. With specifications like that you would not be expecting much. I think that Isolde exceeds any expectations – what is more her construction has kept me somewhat saner than I would have been without her.

Legend has it that Isolde was a beautiful medieval princess of Ireland, betrothed to the King of England. However, she fell in love with the King’s most trusted knight and was (in one version of the story) punished by locking her up, isolated for ever, in a leper colony. My Isolde is indeed beautiful and fit for a king, but she has been released from Isolation and is ready to sail the seas, or at least Albert Park Lake. 

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