Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

1024 Merrill St, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15 November 2019) We continue OliveOyling in Canada with Herb McLeod and his junk rig. The 1 December issue will review taped seams.



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.


Summertime and the living is easy, even in Canada. Herb McLeod's OliveOyl way in the back.



Contact info:


Jim Michalak
1024 Merrill St,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.



Herb's OliveOyl 4


...continued testing his OliveOyl through the summer with all its rigs. He wrote...

August 22, 2019

Hi Jim,

As you know I have tried three rigs on OliveOyl.

The professionally made Dacron sailcloth sprit rig from the AF3, balanced lug rig made of canvas and the Chinese lug rig made from a painting tarp.

The sprit rig is 97 ft2, the balance lug 120 ft2 and the Chinese lug 105 ft2

The boat points best with the sprit rig. I would say that the balanced lug is a close second and the Chinese lug comes in third. I have yet to record a representative track on my smart phone when sailing in smooth wind with either the balances lug or Chinese lug sails. With all the land features around here and puffy summer winds it is really hard to tell what you are able to achieve as the wind direction changes every 100 meters. The difference I am noting between the balanced lug and Chinese rig may be negligible if I had made the darts in the Chinese lug bigger thus building more camber into the sail. The current Chinese lug is almost flat but does have a 4 inch Gurney flap on the trailing edge.

In very light wind (Ghosting conditions) windward performance of the sprit rig is probably the best closely followed by the balanced lug. The balanced lug had considerably more sail area. So far I have not been doing well in very light wind with the Chinese lug. I think it may be a combination of not enough camber (shape) in the sail and less sail area compared to the balanced lug. Also with light wind speeds the Chinese lug does not seem to produce a lot of lift as there is a fair amount of leeway.

When the wind picks up to 10 kph (+6 mph) the Chinese lug does better, the leeway seen in the very light wind significantly decreases. In 10 kph and above winds (+ 12 mph) the Chinese lug really starts to work well. The control of the sail is amazing and in strong puffs in the wind can be controlled with the tiller rather than having to release the sheet. With both the sprit sail and the balanced lug I was never comfortable cleating the sheet, with the Chinese lug I have installed a cam cleat. When sailing solo if I wish to do any sail adjustments with the Chinese lug there is no problem going forward. I tame the rudder with the bungee cord that spans the rear of the cockpit by making a few wraps around the tiller handle. I then release the sheet, adjust the rudder position and go forward. The boat sails along very slowly with no scary moments as I do whatever needs to be done. This can be taking in or letting out a reef changing the downhaul or adjusting one of the several parrels on the sail.

On the sprit rig the boom extends to the stern of the boat and I was having problems with the sheet hanging up on the rudder, the motor and the corners of the boat. I decreased this by rounding all the surfaces on the top and sides of the rudder and making a cloth cover for the head of the outboard. This helped a lot but I still had to be vigilant. The balanced lug was an improvement as the spars do not extend to the stern but the Chinese lug with 10 foot spars extends only to the rear of the cockpit and I have had no problems with the sheets hanging up at the wrong moment.

Jibbing, reaching and downwind the Chinese lug sail is the clear winner over the other two sails.

Coming about with the Chinese lug is slower and less predictable in ghosting conditions compared to the other sails. Having crewed on cruiser sized sloops for a lot of years I love the ease of the Chinese lug sail when coming about. On a plus thirty foot boat, in a race, using a seven man crew there was lots and lots of activity with shouted commands and energetic pulling or sheets at the precise moment backing the jib to bring the boat about. With the Chinese lug I keep the sheet cleated, push the tiller over and watch my compass until I have turned 90 degrees I then start to pull the tiller back to center once the sail starts to pull again. No ducking of my head is needed. Makes me giggle every time to see how fuss free coming about is with the Chinese lug sail.

The Chinese lug also shines when I am approaching my dock with an onshore wind. My dock is in shallow water and I have to pull up the off-center board and rudder to the point that the control of the boat is compromised. With the sprit rig it was easiest to leave the off-center board and rudder down just to run right up on the beach at speed. Once on shore I would sort things out and then pull the boat back to the dock. With the lug sail I could drop the sail into the lazy jacks and then (hopefully) drift to the dock. With the Chinese Lug I can drop sections of the sail and decrease the drive of the sail to the point that I can still manoeuvre the boat with the reduced rudder and off-center board surfaces and under control sail in and drop the sail as I reach the dock.

I find that I don’t use the sprit sail anymore. If the wind is really light I will put on the balance lug but my usual “go to” sail is the Chinese Lug. Now that I know that I can self-rescue from a knockdown with the Chinese lug it makes the choice even easier.


1) In the picture with the Chinese lug sail before the capsize test I had the sail pulled as high up the mast at I could. This was done to place as much weight as high up the mast as possible. I usually set the sail about a foot and a half lower.

2) The colour of the sail was an attempt to make a “tan bark” sail using a burnt umber pigment mixed in with a commercial canvas preservative. The problem was the pigment would not stay suspended in the preservative and I started out with a kind of pinkish colour slowly getting darker as I got to the bottom of the can. It was only on the top four feet of the sail where I got it right by mixing up the preservative and pigment in small half liter batches. This is why I ended up with a blotchy tie-dye effect.

3) My next project will to be to build a Chinese lug sail of about 120 square feet with more camber and a removable Gurney flap. I will build the panels in sections about 2 feet deep and lash the individual sections on the spars. This sail will be easier to sew in a small area I have to work in rather than starting with a 12 x 15 foot painting tarp.

This next sail will also be made of canvas. With all the talk about what to do with plastic waste and the increasing micro-plastics in the environment I am going to build my sails from something that can be composted. I have been using local sourced soft wood to build my boats and they last about 10 to fifteen years so there is no point in building sails that will last twice that long out of materials that cannot be recycled and are eventually destined to become landfill. Just a thought...

4) The Chinese lug sail I built was based on the design found in a DuckWorks article by Mike Mulcahy:



Hi Jim,

We had mostly smooth wind today of 12 kph. I went out for a half hour and turned back home when the wind started getting flukey.

The junk rig can go into the wind but it is not as close to the wind as the leg-o-mutton.

Hope this helps,



I finally had a moment to take my protractor and measure the tack angles on the GPS track I forwarded to you. From the screen shot I measured:

(50° + 60° + 50° + 75° + 70°) ÷ 5 = 60° (the decimal is meaningless)

My compass is showing that I my headings on a tack are about 105° to 110° apart.

This average of about 60° when tacking confirms my suspicion that when close hauled with the Chinese lug rig in light wind there is lee way of about 10°.

Still waiting for a stronger wind.




...This is about the best review I've ever seen of a "real life for us" junk rig, and the comparison of it to the balanced lug sail and the sharpie sprit. Might as well leave it at that!


Piccup Pram

Piccup Pram


Piccup Pram was the first boat of my design to get built, back in 1990, I think. I still have the prototype and use it regularly. I designed it to be the best sail/row boat I could put in the back of my short bed pick up truck. But I found it to be a good cartopper, too. It has capacity and abilities I had previously thought impossible in a 90 pound cartopper. The photo above shows the original 55 square foot sail on Pensacola bay a long time ago. Piccup is a taped seam multichine hull which can take a fair amount of rough water.

Piccup continues to be one of my most popular designs and I get nice photos from builders. Here is one of Richard Donovan hoping for more wind up in Massachusetts.


Richard's Piccup has the larger 70 square foot sail that prefer myself. It's the same as the original but is 2' taller. This balanced lug sail sets on a 12' mast and rolls up easily for storage on its 9' yard and boom. The idea was to be able to store the rig easily in the boat during rowing and it works. There is a pivoting leeboard and kickup rudder on the boat and they can be left in place raised while rowing. Converting to full sail takes a couple of minutes as you step the short mast, clip on the halyard and tack lines, hoist the sail, lower the boards, and off you go. And the balanced lug sail reefs very well although reefing any small boat is best done on shore.

Here is a Piccup by Vince Mansolillo in Rhode Island, a nice father/son project. Piccup will be large enough to hold both of them. You can see the large open frameless cockpit, large enough for sleeping. And you see the buoyancy/storage boxes on the end.


But Piccup will take two adults as seen in the photo of Jim Hudson's boat. Jim's boat has a polytarp sail as does my own Piccup.


These boats have proven to be good for sail rig tinkerers (be sure to read and apply the Sail Area Math essay before starting). Here I am in Piccup with a polytarp sharpie sprit sail. The rig is different from the originals but the hull here is totally unchanged (except for paint) from the original shown on the beach at Pensacola.


I think my own Piccup has had about six rigs of different sorts and was always the test bed for the polytarp sail experiments. But, hey!, that's nothing compared to the tinkering the late and great Reed Smith did with his out in California. Here is his Piccup rigged as a sharpie sprit yawl!


Here is Rob Rhode-Szudy's yawl rig Piccup that was featured in his essays about building Piccup that you can access through the old issue links.

Here is another by Doug Bell:

This one is by Jim Islip:

And this one by Ty Homer:

Piccup Pram uses taped seam construction from five sheets of 1/4" plywood.

Plans for Piccup are still $20.


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.






1dec18, Electric Boats 1, Ladybug

15dec18, Electric Boats 2, Sportdory

1jan19, Sail Area Math, Normsboat

15jan19, AF3Capsize, Robote

1feb19, Bulkhead Bevels, Toto

15feb19, Leeboard Issues, IMB

1mar19, Hollow Spars, AF4 Breve

15mar19, Underwater Board Shape, Harmonica

1apr19, Polytarp Sails 1, River Runner

15apr19, Polytarp Sails 2, Mayfly16

1may19, Sail Shaping, Blobster

15may19, Sail Shaping 2, Laguna

1jun19, Capsize Lessons, QT Skiff

15jun19, Rend Lake 2019, Mixer

1jul19, Scarfing Lumber, Vireo14

15jul19, Rigging Lugsails, Vamp

1aug19, Rigging Sharpie Spritsails, Oracle

15aug19, Rowing1, Cormorant

1sep19, Rowing2, OliveOyl

15sep19, BC Scram Pram, Philsboat

1oct19, Herb's OliveOyl, Larsboat

15oct19, Herb's OliveOyl 2, Jonsboat

1nov19, Herb's OliveOyl 3, Shanteuse


Mother of All Boat Links

Cheap Pages

Duckworks Magazine

The Boatbuilding Community

Kilburn's Power Skiff

Dave Carnell

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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