An Oxford Wherry in the UK

  • So, at the end of last year in the depths of winter and after settling on the Oxford Wherry design, I pulled the trigger and bought plans.

    At this point, I suppose I should explain that a key part of this decision was the ability to get the plans in a digital format. Whilst an inveterate builder of 'things', a boat is not something I've attempted before but has long been a desire. Pre-cut panels with finger joints were appealing, speeding up the initial build, with the ability to use my local CNC shop for an easy collection and reduced cost of parts.

    The Oxford Wherry hit my brief - short enough for a practical build for the building and storage space I have available and a sliding seat offering a nice combination of performance and use for fitness. The freeboard looks perfect for my local conditions on a tidal estuary and reasonably sheltered, Southern UK coastal waters.

    In January, I had the panels cut and acquired the additional timber, squirrelling it away until more epoxy friendly temperatures and spare time arrived. I guess it took me a couple of months with the odd hour or day here and there - superb instructions, particularly epoxy volumes required for each step. Epoxy work by it's nature suits this piecemeal way of working, although it's also useful to plan a few steps ahead for optimal use of time (and epoxy!!)

    Whilst technically it has been launched (weighted with 4x 20kg bags of sand to mark a waterline), It's yet to be fully tested - I now need to acquire some oars!!

    The only deviations from the plans were using Douglas Fir for the gunwhales on grounds of cost (although clear DF was still eye wateringly expensive here in the UK) and using a combination of leftover Okoume and Douglas Fir strip to construct the sliding seat. I thought I had made an error when I cut the slots in the seat as the I-beam principle was then destroyed, but a couple of triangular strengtheners over the slots restored the rigidity and hopefully saved a bit of weight overall than using solid timber.

    My biggest struggles were fairing the curve beneath the 'wineglass' just forward of the transom (it took multiple attempts to get it to my satisfaction) and on the interior I had a layer of epoxy that failed to properly bond to the previous layer, despite being fastidious in measuring resin : hardener ratios. I can only deduce that I had left it a fraction too long in allowing the previous coat to cure or a slight temperature drop caused the issue. It was a painful lesson and took several days to remove!

    More generally, the painting/finishing I found hard work, which I think almost doubled the build time but I think that's just my lack of experience. I'm not 100% happy with the finish (it's not a show standard boat but maybe I'm just being too much of a perfectionist) but I can improve that over time with additional sanding back and coats of varnish/paint when I next have the time (and inclination!); it's still pretty with those lovely lines and ready to be used though!

    Any more Oxford Wherries in the UK?


  • Hello Steph.  Thanks for sharing your experiences with building the Oxford Wherry.  She's a beaut!!  I love your color scheme too.  And the Douglas fir gunwales look great.  Douglas fir is a nice alternative, as it's a little lighter than most hardwoods, but has a richer colour (and is denser) than most softwoods.  We live in the land of Douglas fir here, but it's still expensive.  

    Yes, we've sold dozens of plans for the Oxford wherry to customers in the UK, so they must be out there somewhere.  Maybe some of them will see this post and share their experiences.

    Nice job, and I look forward to hearing about your adventures on the water.  Are you okay if I post your pics on our FB page?


  • @Colin Angus thanks for the kind comments, I definitely tried hard to do the design proud, it's a pretty boat and I can't wait to get it on the water. As for the colour scheme, well it had to be Oxford blue 😀

    My oars arrive next week, so hopefully I'll have chance to use it before the Gales we frequently get here set in as we approach winter.

    More than happy for you to use the pictures elsewhere and I'll hope to send some more when I get to have some adventures. 

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