Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

1024 Merrill St, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15 February 2019) We review leeboard details. The 1 March issue will be about hollow spars.



is out now, written by me and edited by Garth Battista of Breakaway Books. You might find it at your bookstore. If not check it out at the.... ON LINE CATALOG OF MY PLANS...

...which can now be found at Duckworks Magazine. You order with a shopping cart set up and pay with credit cards or by Paypal. Then Duckworks sends me an email about the order and then I send the plans right from me to you.

REND LAKE 2019...

...will take place on June 7 and 8, always on the weekend before Father's Day weekend. I promised to remind all of us to try to get the good campsites on the North Sandusky loop. They are sites 24 through 30 and especially 26 through 29 if possible, this at the North Sandusky campground at Rend Lake. Let's give it a try. This is not really organized but if you nail one down, let me know. I will be trying too. UPDATE: AS OF DEC 6 WE HAVE ALREADY NAILED SITES 26 THROUGH 28. IF YOU DON'T GET A SITE NOW, DON'T FORGET THAT SEVERAL TENTS ARE ALLOWED AT EACH SITE AND YOU CAN DOUBLE OR TRIPLE UP ON A SITE. THERE WILL BE ROOM FOR ALL.


Another view of James Maxwell's Fatcat2 in Montana. Photo by Jim Young.



Contact info:


Jim Michalak
1024 Merrill St,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.



Leeboard Issues


I've covered sizing and placing of leeboards in previous issues that you can find down in the Way Back Issues link. But to recap, the things you might remember are that the immersed area of the board should be about 4% of the sail area, and that the leeboard must be mounted at the hull's widest beam in order to be in flow parallel to the boat's motion. The suggestion on area would apply to any board such as a centerboard or a daggerboard (but those boards need not be limited to mounting at the boat's widest beam). Lastly, the sail area has to be aligned with its sail area center right above the center of the board's area, more or less.

Here is an example of a leeboard on Slam Dink.


Notice that it pivots around a bolt which is placed to allow the board to retract fully above the bottom of the hull. You can't tell from the drawing but the pivot bolt runs through a lower hull guard and the top of the leeboard runs in a slot in an upper hull guard. The board is thus braced to take loads in both directions, unlike a tradional loose leeboard. As a result only one of these pivoting leeboards is needed on the boat, it works on both tacks, where the tradional loose leeboard only works on the lee tack so two are required. In truth these pivoting leeboards aren't really leeboards but are more like centerboards mounted outside the hull. While sailing you handle it just like a centerboard - just leave it down almost all the time except maybe while running and broad reaching. But I'm still going to call it a leeboard.

The pivoting leeboard has several advantages. They are easily built and altered. There are no holes required through the hull except for the pivot hole. Best of all the leeboard takes up no room on the boat's interior. On the Slam Dink that same board mounted as a centerboard would take up the whole interior. You could see the same situation below on Richard Spelling's AF2 (shown with an experimental mizzen sail).



I've found that no ballast is required for these boards, they are laminated from layers of plywood with the edges streamlined. If they are loosely pivoted they have a natural tendency to drop down a bit so that they might drop about 20 or 30 degrees until the buoyancy of the immersed segment balances the weight of the board. If you are trailering your boat it is often prudent to secure the board in the full up position so it doesn't catch on things while launching. That happened to me once while launching my Birdwatcher which has a conventional centerboard. I bashed away at it perplexed until the tiny voice of a six year old watching said, "Mister, that board thing on your boat is catching your trailer."

So in that AF2 photo Richard is releasing a line that secures the leeboard in the up position.

How to get the board down? Easy. There is an ear attached to the upper aft edge of the leeboard that sticks up through the upper guard and there is a lanyard attached to it. Grab the lanyard and pull back on it and the leeboard rotates down until it goes kerplunk against the aft end of the slot in the upper guard. Here is Richard hauling the board down.


Once the board is down it prefers to stay down, especially if there is a bit of friction between board and guards applied by tightening the pivot bolt. There are two things that can make it pop up. First if it strikes something like a stump or the bottom. Second is drag on the board when there is no side load on the board such as when running downwind or sometimes when tacking through the eye of the wind.

Once that happens the board will pop up to its comfortable 20 or 30 degree position and stay there until you yank it back down. In the partially down postition the board will still provide skeg effect when running downwind. But some boats will steer better downwind if the board is pulled down again and you might experiment with that. In the situation where the board pops up while tacking through the eye of the wind, you must pull it back down again to sail on the new tack. As always, if the boat suddenly feels funny while tacking through the wind, always check the leeboard first and make sure it is down.

It is possible to cleat off the lanyard to make sure the board stays down but you must remember to release it before running into shallows. I don't do that myself. Instead I prefer to run the lanyard back around an oarlock and into the cockpit. The oarlock acts as a turning block. Here is a photo of Herb McLeod's AF3 and you can clearly see the leeboard, upper leeboard guide, pivot bolt, and the lanyard running aft to a cleat which is handy at the back edge of the cockpit.


Again, usually on a boat like AF3 I would run the lanyard through the oarport and around the oarlock (Maggie the Dog would not appreciate that) and not cleat it off. But I do use a cleat on the forward end of the upper leeboard guard. I can secure the board in the up postition by leading the lanyard forward to that cleat. But in normal use the board is cleated up only while trailering.

Birdwatcher type boats have a problem with a leeboard like this in that there is no convenient access to the outside of the hull to handle that lanyard. My suggestion would be to run the lanyard through a small hole in the side of the hull which is kept radiused to act like a bearing. Pull the board down at any time that way without leaving the inside of the boat. No need to ever pull it up except to trailer.

No one has done that but some of those boats have lanyards running fore and aft to be captured by cleats on the fore and aft decks. So you can pull the board around like a puppet in any direction. Here is a photo of Karl James' Jewelbox chuckling along. You can see here the leeboard, the upper and lower guard, pivot bolt, and a loose lanyard running outside the hull to a cleat on the aft deck. (There is also a line running forward but it's not really visible.) You can see there is no tension required in that lanyard to keep the board in the down postion.



This one applies to any foil running through the water such as leeboards, daggerboards, centerboards and rudders. It is expecially true for deep narrow foils of the type preferred for low drag.

If the leading and aft edges of these boards aren't properly streamlined they will vibrate. That happened to me in the original Piccup Pram which had a really long narrow board. I wrote to Bolger about the problem and his answer was something like this:

"Streamline the edges more. If it still vibrates, streamline it some more."

So I streamlined the edges and the vibration went away. Bolger had seen everything.

We recently learned an intersesting spin on this. Richard Spelling was having problems with his leeboard vibrating and was getting tired of streamlining the edges. About the third time he wrote me about the problem, I received an issue of Small Craft Advisor and there was a discussion about foil vibration by the racing boat designer Stephen Baker.

Here is what Baker said:

"...A thin trailing edge, if faired into the shape properly, is a must. Do NOT round the trailing edge, rather cut it square and thin, and then bevel it about 30 degrees (doesn't matter which side) to stop it from vibrating at speed..."

A few days later Richard wrote me back, "Thinning and beveling worked pretty well. All leeboard vibration gone. Thanks guys."




IMB features a "Birdwatcher" cabin, full length with panoramic windows and a center walkway slot in the roof. Everyone rides inside. This style of boat was invented by Phil Bolger in the early 1980's.

These boats can be self righting with minimal, or no, ballast because crew weight works as ballast. They sit low looking out through the windows (although standing in normal winds is quite acceptable). The cabin sides provide lots of buoyancy up high to ensure a good range of stability. IMB, which is small with a light bottom, should reliably self right from 60 or 70 degrees and in the test described above self righted from a full 90 degrees of roll.

These boats are operated from within the cabin, like an automobile. No one need ever go on deck. For boating with children I can see no equal.

These are usually cool inside. The tinted windows cut the sun's power. The crew can sit in the shade of the deck. Downdraft from the sail cascades through the walkway. (By the way, at the Conroe messabout two boaters with Lexan windows noted that mosquito spray will ruin Lexan with one application and they noted belatedly that the back of the spray can says so.)

IMB has an 8' long cabin on a multichine pram hull. The prototype was built to perfection by Gerry Scott of Cleveland, Texas. At the Conroe (Houston) messabout I got a chance to look over his boat plus the only other IMB I know of built by Bob Williams. Both boats were quite true to the plans. Both had added low inside seats which made them more pleasant to use to the point that I will show some seats on the plans. I was worried when I drew IMB that the headroom would be minimal so drew no seats thinking the crew would sit on the floor, as with the original Birdwatcher.

While I was sailing with Gerry, Bob's boat came out on the lake with four adult males and no sign of bogging down, showing that these fat pram shapes, very much like my Piccup Pram, can handle a lot of weight in the 13.5' length.

(Later they rescued a mermaid and returned to the dock with five total.)

I don't know if either boat had ever been weighed and the 350 pounds I quote as the empty weight is just a guess. One of the ideas behind the boat was that it might be towed behind a compact car and I was glad to see that Gerry tows his behind a 1500cc mini SUV.

Both men adjusted well to the lug sail/leeboard rig. Gerry's has the blueprint 104 square foot sail and Bob's uses the 114 square foot Bolger Windsprint sail available from Payson. I used to worry a bit about running a leeboard on a full cabin boat like this since handling must be done by remote control, so to speak. No problem. Both boats have the leeboard lanyard running to a cleat on the aft deck. The leeboard position is plainly in view at all times through the cabin window. In use these leeboards need only lanyards to pull them down. Once down they will usually stay down until they strike something. Then they pop up and you will need to pull them down again. I've never seen a need for a lanyard to pull the board up although I've seen several rigged that way. The Dovekie design had elaborate cam operated levers in the cabin that operated the leeboards and I thought that all very clever. But in talking to some Dovekie owners I found the internal levers are not universally loved since they can often be in the way. Anyway, my idea was not to run the down lanyard to the aft deck but rather through a small hole in the side of the boat, say 1/2" for a 1/4" lanyard, so it could be operated totally from inside the cabin.

Both Gerry's and Bob's boats used electric trolling motors. The plans show rowing ports and no provisions for a motor. A boat like this won't be a fast row boat but it might be useful in a calm. Even the 24' Birdwatcher would row about 2.5mph in a calm. But I'll admit that adding a motor to Birdwatcher makes it a much more useful thing.

IMB takes two sheets of 1/2" plywood, eight sheets of 1/4" plywood and one sheet of 3/16" Plexiglass. Taped seam construction using no jigs or lofting.

IMB plans are $30.


Prototype News

Some of you may know that in addition to the one buck catalog which now contains 20 "done" boats, I offer another catalog of 20 unbuilt prototypes. The buck catalog has on its last page a list and brief description of the boats currently in the Catalog of Prototypes. That catalog also contains some articles that I wrote for Messing About In Boats and Boatbuilder magazines. The Catalog of Prototypes costs $3. The both together amount to 50 pages for $4, an offer you may have seen in Woodenboat ads. Payment must be in US funds. The banks here won't accept anything else. (I've got a little stash of foreign currency that I can admire but not spend.) I'm way too small for credit cards.

We have a Picara finished by Ken Giles, past Mayfly16 master, and into its trials. The hull was built by Vincent Lavender in Massachusetts. There have been other Picaras finished in the past but I never got a sailing report for them...

And the Vole in New York is Garth Battista's of www.breakawaybooks.com, printer of my book and Max's old outboard book and many other fine sports books. Beautiful job! Garth is using a small lug rig for sail, not the sharpie sprit sail shown on the plans, so I will continue to carry the design as a prototype boat. But he has used it extensively on his Bahamas trip towed behind his Cormorant. Sort of like having a compact car towed behind an RV.

And a Deansbox seen in Texas:

Another prototype Twister is well along:

A brave soul has started a Robbsboat. He has a builder's blog at http://tomsrobbsboat.blogspot.com. (OOPS! He found a mistake in the side bevels of bulkhead5, says 20 degrees but should be 10 degrees.) This boat has been sailed and is being tested. He has found the sail area a bit much for his area and is putting in serious reef points.






1mar18, Sail Rig Trim 1, AF4Breve

15mar18, Sail Rig Trim 2, Harmonica

1apr18, Two Totos, River Runner

15apr18, Capsize Lessons, Mayfly16

1may18, Scarfing Lumber, Blobster

15may18, Rigging Sharpie Sprit Sails, Laguna

1jun18, Rigging Lug Sails, QT Skiff

15jun18, RendLake 2018, Mixer

1jul18, Horse Power, Vireo14

15jul18, Motors per the Coast Guard, Vamp

1aug18, Propeller Pitch, Oracle

15aug18, Propeller Slip, Cormorant

1sep18, Measuring Prop Thrust, OliveOyl

15sep18, Taped Seams, Philsboat

1oct18, Plywood Butt Joints, Larsboat

15oct18, Small Boat Rudders, Jonsboat

1nov18, Sink Weights, Shanteuse

15nov18, Piccup Spinoffs, Piccup Pram

1dec18, Electric Boats 1, Ladybug

15dec18, Electric Boats 2, Sportdory

1jan19, Sail Area Math, Normsboat

15jan19, AF3Capsize, Robote

1feb19, Bulkhead Bevels, Toto


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