Nick Smith motor launch Bella – fitting the engine and shaft

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Nick Smith motor launch Bella drilling the shaft log

Nick Smith motor launch Bella ply template holding necessary from motor, shaft line, mounts Nick Smith motor launch glueing tapered engine beds Nick Smith motor launch Bella fitting stern tube, shaft and engine

Nick Smith motor launch Bella fitting stern tube, shaft and engine Nick Smith motor launch Bella after deck khaya mahogany king plank and cover boards, iroko planks

Nick Smith and colleagues has been fitting the engine to the motor launch Bella – it’s quite a process as these photos and his notes below reveal – and fitting the aft deck, which is now looking very special.

Find more posts about Nick’s boats here.

The photos are in order, from the top and numbered left to right in Nick’s notes. Here’s what hehas to say:

1 Drilling the shaft log to take the stern tube. Notice the rudimenary drilling  jig, which is simple and effective; I use the same method to drill through the keel deadwood, from the outside in.

2 The ply template holds all the necessary information taken from the motor, dimension of shaft line, engine mounts etc. The old boys would use a string line to line up the shaft, but I use straight edges – they have to be right and don’t get the false readings that can happen when you inadvertently lean on the string with your knee.

3 Once happy with the shaft angle I can glue on the tapered engine beds. These are angled exactly to the shaft angle. Now we are getting somewhere!

4 Simple as that! Fit the stern tube, slide the shaft in, lift the engine into place, sort the engines’ fore and aft position, adjust the four mounts to line up the couplings exactly,drill off for the coach screws to hold the flexible mountings down, and then bolt down. Add the flexy coupling and bolt shaft to gearbox. A good day’s work.

5 As 4 above.

6 Whilst the stern gear engineers were knocking up their bit, I got on with other jobs, including laying the after deck, making up the locker front and locker door, and some paintwork, including varnish on the seats. I’ve got a gloss on them already, even only after one coat of 50/50 and one full coat. Here’s the after deck, khaya mahogany king plank and cover boards, iroko planks, payed with black polysulphide compound. The mahogany is to be fully varnished and the deck planking is to be fed with a linseed oil-white spirit mixture.

Bella is six to eight away from completion, but as the old boatbuilders in Salcombe used to say ‘a boat’s only finished when it goes away’. Looking at my timesheets, so far I have been building her for 13 weeks in workshop time, so I’m reasonably pleased with the progress.

More photos next week.



Nick comes from Devon, learned boatbuilding the traditional way and specialises in new builds in clinker and carvel for sail, motor and rowing power from 8ft to 28ft with a special emphasis on West Country style and design, and also takes on repairs and refits from 25ft to 50ft. These days he’s based in Hampshire, and can be contacted by email at and by phone on phone on 07786 693370.