When we started our coral nursery project off the coast of Merang village we faced many obstacles that delayed or hindered our progress. One of the biggest obstacle is getting to the nursery site approximately 5km offshore. Rental boat is expensive and often difficult to get especially during high tourist seasons. We also faced the scheduling problems due to the distance from base to the jetty and the arrangements at the jetty that is always hectic with travellers. After considering a long term involvement with this project and it feasibility we decided to address this issue with building our own research boat - The Nautilus. With Nautilus we are able to reduce running costs for our project and streamline our research scheduling by eliminating waiting time at the jetty. Nautilus allows us to launch and retrieve from our shore.

Nautilus is build from scratch using plywood and epoxy material. The method of building is stitch and glue where no nails, screws or fasteners are used in the process. Ordinary plywood sheets are joint to make long continuous sheet for the hull. Kevlar material is used to strengthen the shell of the hull and to reinforce the internal structures. This resulted in a light and strong hull suitable for our purpose. The design and plans of Nautilus is obtained from an online provider. Ordinary tools are used to cut and assemble this boat. The list of tools includes:
Power tools:
Electric Drill, Jigsaw, Electric Sander

Hand Tools:
Hand Planner, Fine tooth hand saw, Pliers, hammer, Screw drivers, Drill bits, Paper cups, Paint Roller, Paint Brush

Building this boat from the beginning until completion takes 160 hours. On average I work approximately 8 hours per day. Material preparation for the hull takes 2 days including scarfing, lofting and cutting the hull panels. One the third day the shell of the hull is stitched together to form the shape of the boat. Material used in building includes:


8 sheets of 6mm plywood and 4 sheets of 12mm plywood

Polymer Materials:

Kevlar, Epoxy resin, Carbosil

Stitch Material:

Copper wire

On the fifth working day the interior structures are assembled into the hull. Bulkheads and compartments are set in place and tested for fit. Minor adjustments are made to fit the compartments. It is then filleted and taped with fiberglass tape and resin. While waiting for the joins of interior compartments to cure, I cut the panels that makes the rear buoyancy compartments. The buoyancy compartments is also filleted and taped in place later. The fillet putty is made from mixing carbosil with epoxy resin. The hull is left to set.

While the hull is left to set I work on the 1 x 2 that I am using for the side railings. The wooden railing is joint together by scarfing and gluing. This resulted in a continuous piece of wood that I can assemble to the sides later. I also make markings for cut outs of the storage compartments. The openings are later cut using jigsaw.

After the interior structure is set in placed and taped the boat is more rigid and can be turned over for lamination. The joints are filleted and sanded smooth. I use Kevlar impregnated with epoxy resin to cover the entire hull. While the hull is upside down I worked on the bottom and sides of the boat. After covering the hull with polymer I leave it to set for few days before returning to sand and fill the weaves with putty. 

While waiting for the hull to cure I make the breast hook and cleat braces. I also make the compartment doors during this period. All the fittings that I will use to finish the project is taken out and measured to ensure they can fit. Fittings I purchased for this boat includes:

3 Stainless Steel Cleats, 4 Stainless Steel Hinges, 1 Round Hatch, Drain tube complete with drain plug, 2 latches for the rear compartment covers and the tow hook.

Once the lamination cures I filled the weaves with putty and sanded it smooth. The hull is turned over and I laminated the entire interior of the boat. I also set the side railings and clamp them in place. Total of twenty C-clamps is used to hold the railings in place. The railings are left overnight to let it settle into the curves of the hull. Next morning I remove them and apply thickened epoxy before clamping them back in place. 

While waiting for the side railings glue to cure I drilled the drain hole on the transom of the boat. I also install the round hatch on the front compartment. By now the hull is almost its total weight of approximately 75kg. Upon completion this boat weighs around 85 to 90 kg. It should be light enough to be carried by 2 - 3 people (without equipment).

Once all parts of the boat is assembled in place it is again flipped over for painting. It is finally sanded and given two coats of primer. When the primer cures I give it three coat of finishing paint. It has been a debate among friends on what color I should paint Nautilus. I leave it white so that it is easier to paint with any color if I decide to do so. This boat is so much rigid and heavier than the first time I turned it upside down. But my estimation that it is still under 90kg. 

Nautilus shall be fitted with a 15hp outboard and a center console for easy maneuvering. It should be light enough and can be easily handled by one researcher. Nautilus is a day boat and is not designed to sit in the water for prolonged periods. It should be pulled out of the water at the end of each day for rinsing and the instruments it carry returned to research base. At the time of writing, a new light weight trolley is designed for ease of getting it from base to beach and return. 

She is fitted with bow and stern cleats and towing hook. Nautilus is now ready to be taken to the water for handling test. Although there are few minor things left to do I must say that to work on Nautilus is complete. This is a decent research boat that will take us to the research and nursery site safely. This boat measures 16ft in length and 5ft beam is good enough for our purpose. 

Its 15hp outboard has enough power for the load of three researchers and equipment for a days work. Her purpose as a data gatherer will be justified by the instruments and equipment she carry. Progressively as we raise enough funds she will be equipped with GPS/Plotter, Doppler Acoustic Current Profiler (DACP) and instruments for quantitative and qualitative surveys of the coral reefs. In short Nautilus is a small mobile laboratory for the researchers.

Nautilus shall be launch is the beginning of the season in 2015. She will make weekly excursion to the research and nursery site where we develop coral reef restoration models, our methodologies and our education systems. 

As we are growing we hope to inspire young students to join us in our research and perhaps take the challenges of ocean science in their higher education.

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