Ram Sudama

Creative Arts


We always lived near the water when I was growing up, and I started messing about in boats from the time I was old enough not to drown when I fell in. Throughout my life I've had boats of one sort or another, ranging from a Sunfish to blue-water cruising sailboats and recreational tugs. I've cruised extensively up and down the eastern seaboard from Maine to Key West, throughout the Salish Sea from the Puget Sound to the Queen Charlotte Sound, as well as in New Zealand and Australia.

I've built several boats myself. My first boat was a dinghy design by John Wolford of New Zealand, called "Tender Behind". It's an 8' pram, very similar to a Nutshell pram or an Optimist. It's got a daggerboard and a small balanced lugsail. I've actually only sailed it very rarely, but we've used in extensively as a tender for larger boats when we've cruised in the Pacific Northwest. It's a very sturdy and light little boat with a lot of rocker and incredible freeboard. It's very bouyant and you can really load it up - we've had as many as 4 people and a dog in it at one time. The construction is stitch and glue 1/4" marine plywood with a built-up transom and solid oak gunwales.


My second boat was actually a family project that my wife Satya and my son Kabir did with me at the Vancouver Wooden Boat Festival a number of years back. It's an 11' flat-bottom skiff made of 3/8" marine plywood, with fir frames, transom and thwarts. The whole thing was put together with 3M 5200 adhesive and copper nails. 5200 is an amazing material for boat building, many of the major boat manufacturers use it to bond the deck molding to the hull. In any case, my wife never liked this boat as much, partly because is was fairly heavy, and partly because it would pound in any kind of a sea due to the flat bottom. We sold it to a local fisherman after a few years.


My latest project is a 14' sailboat from a design by Arch Davis called a Penobscot 14. This is an interesting design that uses longitudinal frames on which 1/4" marine plywood planks are laid up with the seams overlapping on the frames. This has a lapstrake (or clinker) appearance with none of the attendant issues related to leaks at the seams. There are a number of design options, I chose to put in a centerboard rather than a daggerboard and am going with a lug rig rather than a sloop rig. I learned to sail on boats similar to this and am looking forward to getting back more into small-boat sailing. The boat is ready to be painted - these photos are from the early construction phase.

I finally finished this boat. I was originally going to paint the interior and sheer strakes so I wasn't terribly fussy about the appearance. But my wife persuaded me (doesn't take much) to leave them varnished, which does show off the woodwork nicely. I had the sail made up by Bob Rose in Duncan. I got spruce planks for the mast from Barkley Sound Oar and Paddle in Coombs, glued them up, and got my neighbor Albert Gut (former wheelwright) to help me run them through his router to round the corners off. From there I shaped all the spars by hand and eye. The boat handles very nicely and is much more stable in a sea than I might have expected. I hope to do a lot more sailing around my home in this boat.

She's finished!

Sailing at Bill Mee Park