A portion of the inside sheer rail is missing. Is it possible to join a new piece to the existing rail, or do I need to replace it altogether?

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Seems like to do a decent job, you'd want to scarf the missing piece on - that means removing the existing piece. At that point, it might be simpler to install a new inwale (inner gunwale)

Thank you David. If I replace it, what kind of wood do you recommend?

White oak or ash. Kurt's suggestion is right on (as usual) and will add a bit of strength to that area. I'd add blocks to both sides. 

Thank you David!  Are "Inner Gunwale" and "Inner Sheer Rail" different names for the same thing?  I read "sheer rail" on plans in the Drift Boats and River Dories book.  But maybe I was looking at the wrong piece.

Gunwale (pronounced "gunnel") is defined as "the upper edge of a boat's side". It defines the sheer line of the boat, and on dories consists of an inwale and and outwale. So yes, sheer rail and gunwale describe the same piece. 

Hate to butt in here, but in case David is away from the computer awhile. White oak is the typical material. I might also recommend installing transom wedge blocks that fit between the hull panel and inside handrail or inwhale. This will support the inwhale in that long span from #1 frame to the transom. Here is a pic of a transom wedge block. White Oak is also typically used for this.

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Thank you Kurt! That’s really helpful. I can’t wait to get on the water!

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