Building a traditional Venetian boat in the Basque Country /14

Last week I left you with a sight of the forward deck, more on it on this post.

As you might have noticed, I avoided the modern, tapering-planks method in favor of a more traditional and efficient way of planking. I believe these two photos here below can explain more than a thousand words what I did:

Here is the finished deck, with the planks cut flush with the breasthook. At the tip of the bow you can see the top of the stem, with two small triangles filling the gap on its sides. These are normally separated from the breasthook but Ioanna liked the idea of making them all out of a single piece.

I haven’t caulked it yet, but it might need to be if the planks shrink too much.

At the bottom of the picture you can see a cross piece made of oak, steam bent into place. In Venice it would be bent with open fire but we went for a method I’m more familiar with.

We then installed the two upper strakes called falche (waterboards in English maybe?). The overlap the sheer plank and are fastened mainly to stanchions and frames (but also into the thwart and the deck cross pieces).

At the aft, the transom got its final cut, and looks very elegant now.

After fastening everything, it was time to flip the boat. We therefore dismantled the strongback, since we have no plans to build another sandolo here in the near future.

Now it’s easy to trim the bottom of the frames, flush with he floor timbers.

We also faired the stem and the filling piece at the bow, ready to install the side planks. These are almost ready, just need a few dutchmen and plugs on a few nasty knots here and there.

The extra width will get cut after they are fastened in their final position.

But the side planks are the last to be installed. First we need to close the bottom.

Since we were afraid the dry bottom planks would swell up once in the water, pushing the side planks out of place, we decided to soak them in the sea for a couple of days.

Such a nice weather, right?

I am not sure how they prevent this from happening in Venice, but I’ll try to find out. That’s it for this week, see you the next one, hopefully with the boat ready to be painted!

Building a traditional Venetian boat in the Basque Country /13

Happy May Day, everyone! Today we are not working, it’s also International Workers’ Day after all.

But this week we had good progress and you can really tell that the boat is getting close to be ready…

To be honest, the week started slowly: on Monday Albaola hosted the press conference for “La Fortuna”, a series produced by Movistar+, and directed by Alejandro Amenábar (

Laguna got a place in the first row.

Some of the scenes were filmed in Pasaia, with the partecipation of tall ship replicas Étoile du Roi ( and Shtandart (,_1999)). We were lucky enough to be invited on board both of them!

After all these distractions, we could get back to work. Ioanna started by caulking the aft deck she had installed last week.

We used oakum instead of cotton string, in order to follow more closely the traditional way.

This might need to be redone after the boat sits under the sun for a while, but we thought that the caulking would prevent the deck planks from warping too much while still out of the water.

Then, together with Alejandro, they managed to prepare four out of five of the sotocorboli, the pieces that will receive the foot of the forcole and prevent them from rocking while rowing.

They have quite a complex shape, as you can see from the one in the bottom right.

Also notice that we painted the interior with some primer, after Ioanna had sanded everything.

This is how the thwarts are traditionally painted, in Venice but also here in the Basque Country.

Regarding this semicircular patter, I was once told that it is a reminiscence of the times when boats were covered in tar. You wouldn’t want to stick to the tar with your “clean” trousers, especially in the summer when it all melts. Therefore the seats would be left without tarring.

We followed the tradition, and oiled the thwart instead (with a mix of boiled linseed oil and turpentine).

I devoted my time to the closing of the forward deck. Ioanna had prepared the breasthook last week, but kindly left it to me to finish.

After installing the first beam and cutting a rabbet on the socheto (breasthook), I positioned two more beams in between with the help of a batten. The beams have been made out of larch, as will the deck.

As you might have noticed, I had the two smaller beams seated too low and decided to glue two small strips on top of them to reach the right height. I was just too lazy to cut new ones.

In this group picture, you can see how the deck turned out. It still need to be fastened, but you can already notice that it is asymmetrical. It’s been made the traditional way, in order to waste as few material as possible.

The new neighbor is a fishing boat called Zardara, whose faith is still uncertain.

After fastening it I will take some more pictures and explain more in detail how it is done.

What’s the plan for next week?

Nailing the forward deck, hanging the washboards (you can see them in the last picture, lying on the floor next to Laguna), fix the stanchions supporting them, fasten the sotocorboli, cut the transom, and maybe even flip the boat and start closing it for good!