Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

1024 Merrill St, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15January 2018) We discuss capsize recovery. The 1 February issue will be about bevels.



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....

REND LAKE 2018...

...will take place on June 8 and 9, always on the weekend before Father's Day weekend. WE HAVE ALREADY NAILED SITES 25 THROUGH 29 SO THE END OF THE LOOP IS OURS. THANKS TO ALL WHO HELPED NAIL THEM DOWN.


...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.


A Skat at Gene Berry's Stockton Messabout. This one has airboxes added after the original open design, copied from a classic Edson Schock design, swamped in a practice capsize. Now it can be sailed without bailing after a capsize.



Contact info:


Jim Michalak
1024 Merrill St,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.



AF3 Capsize Tests


This is a rerun which featured a capsize test done by Herb McLeod on his then new AF3. I want to keep this one up front because it demonstrates what you need to do when you capsize a sailboat which is not self righting, but rather is self rescuing. That is you can get it back upright and going again if you are properly prepared and if the boat, like AF3, has ample built in flotation or airboxes to keep it floating high on its side as you recover. A few things I'd like to point out. 1) Herb's tests were done in very benign conditions and if you capsize in really bad conditions recovery could be a lot more difficult or impossible. 2) If you tinker with a design such that you remove flotation or airboxes or enlarge hatches or move them off centerline, etc., the recovery system may not work and the boat may swamp to the point where you cannot recover. 3) If you have a design with no flotation or airboxes at all, such as most any traditional open boat, recovery is about impossible because the boat will swamp completely and be unstable even if it doesn't sink.

And now on to our story...


Herb McLeod has been sending me some great scans and also some results of capsizing his AF3, both intentional and unintentional. Early this summer he wrote:

"Hi Jim:

I now have 14 days of sailing in on the AF3. Alas, no pictures yet of it sailing on the water for the same reason as ever, no one else around to take a picture. Most days I am the only boat on the lake. Had one sail where we traveled 20 miles in one day. We did a 6.5 mile section that day in 1 hour 10 minutes with the small sail (69 square feet) on a beam to broad reach (lots of wind). Also managed to turn the AF3 on its side that same day. The AF3 floated well was easily uprighted, boarded and bailed out. Everything in the cuddy stayed dry and we managed to not loose any of our gear. But that is not what I am writing about....."

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That whetted my appetite and I emailed for more info about the capsize.

"I'd like to hear a bit more about the AF3 capsize. In particular: About what angle did it go over?"

"I do not know because we were not sailing it at the time. We were both standing on the cuddy deck fiddeling with the sail in a good blow and it went over real fast. We have regularly sailed the hull at up to 20 degrees of heel and it does not feel unstable although I like it best at 10 degrees of heal. I have an inclinometer on the boat(overkill I know) so I know that the angle of heel is a real measurement not a guess. When sailing I had one puff that almost caused a knockdown because I had accidently cleated the main sheet. What happened is he boat healed over dramatically and the sail depowered enough that equilibrium was reached and I was able to uncleat the sheet in time to prevent a capsize. Unfortuantly I did not look at the inclinometer, but I was busy at the time.

" How did you right the boat? (Did you use the leeboard?)"

"Gord the fellow I was sailing with uprighted the boat while I swam off after our cooler that was quickly blowing away. The water was shallow so he was standing on the bottom. His comment after was that he was amazed at how easily the boat came back up. The second set of plans for the AF3 that I purchased was for Gord as after that experience he was convinced that he wanted to build himself an AF3 this winter. We will see..."

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"How did you reboard the boat?"

"I climbed on from the stern. I have a small step on the stern that also doubles as a support for my mast cradle. Iput my hands on the stern deck and placed my foot on the step and climbed on board. I must take a photo of this step and send it to you. With the step it was easy to reboard and I could walk around in the cockpit with the water in it and bail it out. Gord then reboarded over the side, which was much more difficult and his choice not mine."

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"What I will have to do the next time I am out sailing will be to dump the boat in deep water while watching the inclinometer and get you an answer. The water should be warm this week as it is again over 30C today. Unreal for us as it is usually cool, no one has air conditioning here. We were at a folk festival today but came home as it was too hot.

At summer's end he wrote:

"Hello Jim:

I was glad that I caught you in the other night. It was good to talk to you after so many emails.

I did get out "sailing" this Sunday. I rolled the AF3 solo both ways in deep water. The AF3 seemed stable to well over 30 degrees and I had the distinct feeling that I could have pushed it back upright until the point was reached that the water started to come over the combing of the cockpit. I had my large sail on the boat at the time of the test (103 square feet, 24-foot mast). Winds were almost non-existent. When it was rolled with the leeboard down in the water righting the boat was an easy task as all I had to do was put light pressure on the board. When the leeboard was up out of the water I "walked" with my hands along the chine log (it makes a good grip) to the leeboard and then pulled on the board to pop the boat upright. The comment from the yacht club spectators on the dock was that it came up too easy. They wanted to see me struggle for a while. When righted the boat had 6" on water in the cockpit against the center bulkhead. I pulled myself on board via the stern. I found it easiest to board directly in the middle of the stern because the boat would tend to wallow with the water in the cockpit if I was off to one side or the other. I found turning the rudder 90 degrees and using it as a hand hold helped to reboard. For those with limited arm strength a step on the rudder or a rope step on the stern near the midline would be a great help for reboarding. My son was taking photos I hope some of them turned out. Also asked another boat to take a few photos while sailing maybe we will get you a picture of the AF3 sailing.

I am now off for a week to Jasper Alberta with my son for some hiking and canoeing.


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Herb McLeod seems to be the most energetic and organized person I've met.

The scenery of his sailing lake is certainly picture book beautiful. He has warned me that the mosquitoes don't show in the photos.

The capsize with two men on the cuddy deck is no surprize. The boat was not designed for that. In fact the idea behind the slot top cabin is to do all sail handling from inside the slot. You can do that if the snotter attachment is kept within reach of a person with his feet on the boat's bottom. I suspect the high snotter attachment Herb is using is to gain more sail efficiciency. That is true enough but after having snotter tackles fail in one way or another I learned to keep the them well within reach.

Actually the AF3 capsize seems very similar to my experiences with capsizing my old Jinni. Both boats capsize well before they take water over the side. Jinni had less flotation and I think took on more water. I was able to reboard Jinni over the side. It had lower sides and there seemed to be a trick to rolling over the side just as the boat was rolling upright. Then I had to be very careful to not recapsize the boat because of the sloshing cockpit water. And like AF3, Jinni couldn't quite roll upright until I put some weight on the leeboard. The Jinni had three skid/stiffeners on its bottom which I used as a toehold to regain the capsized boat in the same way that Herb used the AF3 external chines as a finger hold. I may add some similar skids to the AF3 drawings.

Herb looks to have gone through all his tests without disturbing any gear because he had it well stowed. Very important. But a tight well secured fabric cover of the cabin slot would be a good idea in rough going. It should help keep a big wave from sloshing into the cabin and upsetting your day. You must remember that in the conditions that might cause a real capsize things will be a lot more trying.





Robote was designed for Frank Kahr of Rhode Island strictly as a rowing boat, very light and simple and fast and seaworthy. Frank had started a few years back with my WeeVee design shown here:


What surprised both Frank and me was that both of our WeeVee's would row at 4 mph, blinding speed for a 7-1/2' boat! WeeVee has a deep V center, 42" wide and 9" deep with a lot of rocker and no twisting to the bottom panels. It's actually pretty seaworhty too but is tippy if you are not seated. It's not for everyone.

I followed WeeVee with the less extreme 12' Vireo shown here:


Vireo has a 6" V on a 42" beam so is more stable. And it has a pointy bow. The bottom planks in Vireo twist in the bow to make a wave cutting deeper V. Frank built the boat shown and rowed some long stretches with it. But he thought I was on the wrong track. WeeVee's deeper V and untwisted panels were the way to go, he said. How about a 14' boat with the same cross section and untwisted panels but with a long pointy bow? Here are the lines we agreed on:


Frank built the boat, which he called Robote, from three sheets of Okoume plywood with taped seams. It went together easily as longer boats with gentle curves often do. He said it weighs about 60 pounds, light enough that he can carry it on one shoulder for a short way. Here is Frank first time out with Robote:


Frank entered himself and Robote in the Blackburn Challenge, where one has to row about 20 miles around Cape Anne in Massachusetts, most of it on the open ocean. But it wasn't meant to be and he wrote:

"Wind was SE 15+, rising, with 2-3' chop off the ocean. I rowed about 10 miles, then ran for cover in Pigeon Cove. The alternative was several more miles of windward slog followed by more miles of crosswind. It would have been too much for me."

"The boat was dry, in good control always. It will cope with conditions in which you have no business being out."

If I had seen that forecast I would have left my boat on the cartop. I haven't yet seen any photos of this year's race, but the results of 1999 and 2000 races are posted at www.blackburnchallenge.com. Last year 2 entries scratched and this year 35 scratched! But that brings up a very good point. Good rowboats with experienced hands can handle those conditions for a while but you shouldn't set off into them if you can avoid it. You can get "blown away", especially if anything goes wrong, such as losing an oar or rowlock. And the same is true for any sort of power or sail boat - a small failure in moderate conditions can bring on a disaster. My own rule of thumb is to not venture out too far in whitecaps.

Another subject came up between us, the fact that almost any good conventional rowing boat that has no extremes will row about 4-1/2 mph and no faster, at least not in a long row. My Roar2, Sportdory, RB42 and now Robote all go about that speed. Frank adds:

"I agree with your observations about good plywood rowboats. While robote is not a real speedster, it is very pleasant and responds to greater effort with greater speed. Beaching is no problem; in calm water just lean over so one side of the V is horizontal. The boat grew on me during my 2 weeks on Cape Cod and is now beached at a town landing, to be used weekends the rest of the summer. One of my adventures involved a sudden storm with 2' chop crashing on the beach at South Monomoy when I needed to launch to return home; this wasn't pretty, but I got away on the second try.

Plans for Robote, Vireo or WeeVee are $20 each.


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.






1feb17, Aspect Ratio, Jewelbox Jr

15feb17, Aspect Ratio 2, IMB

1mar17, Normsboat Capsize, AF4Breve

15mar17, Underwater Board Shape, Harmonica

1apr17, Capsize Lesson, RiverRunner

15apr17, Measuring Leeway, Mayfly16

1may17, Scarfing Lumber, Blobster

15may17, Rigging Lugsails, QT Skiff

1jun17, Rowing1, Mayfly14

15jun17, Rend Lake 2017, Mixer

1jul17, Rowing2, Viola14

15jul17, Rowing3, Vamp

1aug17, RowingSetup, Oracle

15aug17, Taped Seams, Cormorant

1sep17, OliveOly Capsize Test, OliveOly

15sep17, Plywood Butt Joints, Philsboat

1oct17, Sailing OliveOyl, Larsboat

15oct17, Water Ballast, Jonsboat

1nov17, Water Ballast Details, Piccup Pram

15nov17, Scram Pram Capsize, Harmonica

1dec17, Sail Area Math, Ladybug

15dec17, Cartopping, Sportdory

1jan18, Trailering, Normsboat


Mother of All Boat Links

Cheap Pages

Duckworks Magazine

The Boatbuilding Community

Kilburn's Power Skiff

Bruce Builds Roar

Dave Carnell

Rich builds AF2

JB Builds AF4

JB Builds Sportdory

Hullform Download

Puddle Duck Website

Brian builds Roar2

Herb builds AF3

Herb builds RB42

Barry Builds Toto

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