Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15Sep10)This issue will recap day 4 of the 2010 Texas 200. The next few issues will continue the topic.



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....


...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.

19th Annual Lake Monroe Midwest Messabout. September 17, 18, 19, 2010. The 19th Annual event is fast approaching and it's time to plan for this fall-equinox event. Check out the "Photo Albums" page for pictures from previous years. Just six weeks to make "last minute" preparations. Don't forget, you need not bring a boat to attend. We'll see everyone in a few weeks. Don't forget the website if you need maps or local accommodation information. http://pwp.att.net/p/pwp-mwmess If you build, dream about, or are just interested in small boats, join us each fall on Lake Monroe (Bloomington, Indiana area). Come for good company! Share yarns, swap lies, talk nautical! Saturday night pitch-in dinner and campfire. Paynetown State Recreation Area, Lake Monroe Reservoir, Bloomington, IN. Questions or comments? Contact: 812-378-4236 (jrmcdan@sbcglobal.net), John or Susan


Rus Persson takes his new JonJr out on a perfect day.




Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.




2010 Texas200e


...It is Thursday now and we've been on the cruise for three days. We are starting today's hitch from a pimple on the shore called Pauls Mott. Looking back at it I would say that day 4 seemed to be the most interesting as far as navigation goes. Pauls Mott is maybe five miles from the ship ditch and is surrounded by reefs and shallows. So at dawn part of the fleet heads back towards the ditch, I think, and part presses on for 40 shallower but more direct miles. Chuck knows all this like the back of his hand but the problem that I notice is that, even though you see water all around for miles, some of it is too skinny for even the Caprice so taking direct routes won't work. There are channels cut through the underwater ridges that might stop you but how to find them? The locals have sticks poked into the bottom here and there to mark the way but all that seems pretty informal to a stranger.


To recap, up until the last bit to Pauls Mott I suppose you didn't need to navigate. First day was just turn left and sail to the end of the lagoon and find the big ditch and stick with it to Haps Cut. Next day was to follow the same ditch all the way to the PIYC, which itself could fool you in the last little bit but you know to not go under that huge bridge. You still would not be "lost". On the way to Pauls Mott we stuck with the ditches except for the last ten miles or so and then you sail the shore until you find it. But today we will be going cross country so to speak over miles of shallow water.

The way is pretty clear on the Hot Spot maps. What Chuck does is use an electronic gps mapper thingy. As I recall the display is maybe 8" square and it almost always shows your location (it lost lock from time to time for a few minutes). That is how we stayed in the ditches all the way so far, more so than using the buoys. His gizmo also shows the depths and coastlines. So you can always know where you are and more. The passes through the underwater ridges and reefs are also shown and Chuck has them marked as waypoints that we aim for. Actually the course line is clearly shown on the gizmo and you need only keep your boat icon on the line. SO IT TURNS INTO A VIDEO GAME! I guess you could put the gizmo inside the cabin and steer from in there without ever looking out, all the way to Army Hole. Well, almost.

I have mixed emotions about this sort of navigation since it can remove a really big challenge and the challenge can be fun. Remember the Spaniards found their way around the Gulf Of Mexico with this map...

...somehow they missed half of Florida.

I think the alternative would be to plot the trip on a good paper map, measure the courses and distances, go sailing with compass and watch and don't forget leeway and tides and currents, etc.. Well you can see why the video game approach wins out but the old way is worth a try also. In a way the old navigator might have a better overall view of where he really is than the guy following the gizmo's line. And I can recall from my stint in the air force long ago flying the airways from one radio fix to the next and seeing a huge city below lit up in the black night and no one on board knowing what that city was. So we were on course of course but then again we didn't really know where we were. Now, to a stranger to this place, like me, there were seldom any landmarks to locate yourself, just low coastlines and occasional islands. Here's one....

...Where are we? Damned if I know. Well off the soapbox. I suppose the tiny boats had none of this. They may have followed the leader (not always a guarantee) or they went with compass, clock and map and later in the day some fell behind to where they could not follow anyone and sometimes they made landfall after dark! My hat is off to them. Tom Pamperin said he did it that way in 2009 as a newbe to the area and never got lost!


Chuck told me early that there might be a writer for Woodenboat Magazine in the group. Well, Woodenboat hasn't been sold in my area for years and even though I stil have a classified ad in each issue I haven't actually seen a new copy in ages. As time passed Woodenboat sort of went from a boatshop "how to" small boat mag to a coffee table book of perfect boat beauty and I was thinking we would get a writer who constantly reminded us in mid country that we all build ugly boats and don't even do a good job of that. Instead we got Tom Pamperin and he hopped on Caprice for this leg.

Tom had been supplying me each night with an iced beer from Wisconsin and I have no idea how since he only carried a duffle bag and was boat hopping each day. He sat down to interview me and I had a very good chance to turn the tables on him and get all sorts of interesting info on him. First of all, in the small world catagory, he went to high school with Rob Rohde-Szudy. Then a hitch as an army medic and then a hitch to train as a coast guard rescue swimmer. Lots of camping/exploring/climbing/ultramarathon experience. And he cruises the world in the Bolger Pirate Racer he built, both in the Great Lakes area and in 2009 on the Tx200. That's when he told me he had done the cruise solo, with old fashioned navigation, and really with no troubles. Now he teaches high school English, is the running coach, and writes sort of free lance. Thus the Woodenboat gig. Not what I expected. So keep an eye out for his article. He said WB might send a real photographer to snap pics at Magnolia Beach. (Tom assures me that WB is paying more attention now to us little guys.)


So we launched the Caprice from Pauls Mott and struck out across the shallows with one eye on the nav gizmo.

Looking at my photos I see we were overhauled pretty quickly by the later leaving Lagunas. First up was Chuck's Laguna with Bill and John on board and at the same time Saint John passed both of us so I got a this photo of the double pass.

Note that St John is standing towards the bow as he sails, something I saw him do for hours on the last leg. So I think he has tiller lines running totally around the boat so he can steer from anywhere, including while standing in the bow. But keep in mind if you try this that a boat like Laguna could easily sail away on its own if you fall overboard while doing this. John can walk on water so that is no concern to him. He only wears the PFD to set a good example. Thanks John!

And then passed by Mike Monies beautiful Blue Laguna. Note all the fenders. I think in some places these are used as beach rollers during launching but there was a feeling by some that a boat with fenders on one rail like this will not be stable if it turns turtle. By my experience a boat with a wooden lug rig won't go over more than on its side because the buoyancy of the yards will keep the boat stable on its side. The buoyancy is no more than a few pounds but it is way out there on the end of the mast where it can have a lot of leverage.

Note the wide open spaces we are sailing on. Very likely that almost all the water you see here is waist deep. And even if you know where the passes through the underwater ridges are, you might not be able to take a direct course to them because they can have a peculiar twisty channel all their own. Chuck knew them all. Once through the hidden channels we had a pretty clear shot along the lee side of the barrier island, sort of on a rare close reach, on the last leg to Army Hole.


...is the abandoned Matagorda air base. Built quickly in WW2 it served to train bomber crews and as a base for patrol planes keeping an eye on the Gulf. I suppose it might have been considered to be a pretty remote assignment back then and I sort of imagine how it got to be called Army Hole. There are no big cities near at all and the only way to the mainland is by ferry through about 10 miles of shallows to Port O'Conner. The Air Force closed it in the 60's but the parking areas, some buildings, and runways are all still there. It then served a hitch as a state park and abandoned again. Anyway, we were going there. Here is a google view of the area...

The bay here is about 5 miles wide. The ditch runs along the mainland and I might mention that some cut the cruise short here by continuing directly to Magnolia Beach instead of crossing over to Army Hole. Army Hole is near the cursor, its old runways clearly visible.

The final run to the Hole was pretty easy for us, just coast along the island until we see it. Then as usual the entrance to the Hole is not straight forward so we wake up Mr Honda and power in. Most of the boats have arrived already by the time we get there and the space on the beach is now limited so this is the one night we anchor afloat in Caprice. But still in shallow water and we wade to and fro as required.

Army Hole also has some docks most likely left over from its ferry days so the larger boats have an easy time of it if they can find a slip.

A few boats not in the cruise are there too, the only time we have camped with strangers on the trip. But the boats shown here are with our group. All the buildings you see in the background are locked, bathrooms included. Not sure who mows the grass. There are some shelters which gave relief from the sun as you see...

But the place is not quite deserted. Here are some residents...

...there were lots of them and later I found why humans had to abandon the island. These rabbits are left over from bio experiments gone very wrong that happened here between the closing of the base and the state park days. They look like cute bunnies and that is the whole idea behind the experiment because anyone would trust them. But these are killer carnivorous rabbits that escaped and eventually killed all the biologists and thus the quick closing of the facilities. The only solution is to nuke the island and so far even the Texans have balked at that although they are working on it. This is probably the first time you are reading about this and in time I may have to edit this out after the feds catch up with me. You might think I've been watching too many X files reruns but not so. I stopped watching that show after viewing the episode where Scully started an outboard motor on the first tug so I knew it was all a lie. Anyway, here is Bill Moffitt keeping a wary eye on a bunny and wearing full body armor.

And in addition the shore was covered with crabs running underfoot after sundown.


With the facilities of the abandoned campground around us this became a bit of a cookout. Someone had hotdogs grilling on a campfire and with tables and shelters it was pretty civilized. I was wandering a bit looking mostly for an outhouse and finding none, they are all padlocked, decided to join a discussion at one table where two interesting topics were being discussed.

First Mike Monies wondered by St John's Laguna was so much faster than the others. Well I'm not so sure it was faster than Linn's and maybe Gordo's but it was a very good question. St John was there at the table and the question passed to him. John's take was that, even though his boat had some gofast mods, his main advantage was simply that he was sailing alone and when you take into account that an extra crewmember is going to pack his camping gear then you save maybe 300 pounds by sailing solo. I suspect there is a slight bit more to it than that, St John had dacron sails and a huge backlog of sailing experience and local knowledge. Gordo was often solo too but his boat had built in seats with their extra weight. Andrew's Laguna had absolutely nothing extra but it was always sailed with two men. Plus his boat had a distraction that I haven't mentioned. It was leaking and leaking quite a bit. From the first time it hit the water apparently. It was coming in through the chines joints where they meet the bottom and they had plenty of time for scientific studies as they did the cruise. It was said they were bailing 20 gallons an hour pretty reliably, so the extra crewman was mandatory as a human bilge pump. Mike's Blue Laguna was the most elaborate of them all but Mike said he preferred to have all those extras, he was still fast enough. Chuck's Laguna was somewhere in between, lightly built but with seats. Cowabunga was cruising with John's full family on board and had cut the cruise short at PIYC as he showed some mercy to his crew, although the boat was still plugging away just fine as far as I could see. Anyway, there was a plan afoot to settle the matter on the last day's run to Magnolia Beach. A Laguna race would commence at 8:30, winner getting nothing. I was supposed to swap with John V and ride in Chuck's Laguna while John V would crew on the Caprice. Such was the plan.

The second important discussion was about whether, at this stage of the cruise, a man could smell his own stink.


....well, I hate to bring this up but sometimes a fellow has to go. The reduced intake of food noted earlier helped the situation a bit. Let's see, at Haps Cut there was a fine outhouse except it wasn't really in a house at all, just a toilet seat raised up over a hole in the ground on the side of a dune facing the ditch. It had a perfect view of everything and everything had a perfect view of it. I didn't have to use it and didn't notice anyone else giving it a try and that would have been quite noticeable. At the PIYC all was splendor and I had a chance to download two days worth of data. At Paul's Mott there was nothing and I noticed folks heading out over yonder with a roll of TP and maybe a spade and a wary eye for rattlesnakes, etc.. As far as I know they all made it back.

At Army Hole it was clearly time for me to send another message. As noted, all the facilities were padlocked. And the flat unobstructed nature of the nature there, plus the killer rabbits, put me in a bit of a fix. But on the first day Chuck had shown me a new secret weapon which I thought he said was yet untested. Chuck was fed up with chemical toilets saying they were messy and too small. Now, as you step into Caprice's cabin you put your foot on a box which holds the secret weapon. Lift the box and you see simply the usual plastic bucket with a toilet seat attached. And a big bag of kitty litter adjacent. It works with cats, I can attest to that. Why not humans? Time to test fly this experimental. The Caprice was anchored such that the main hatch was facing away from shore and there were no boats behind us and it was getting dark and Chuck was still schmoozing on shore. So there would be no better time than now. First flights are always exciting because you never know what will happen, you might even get killed. You can imagine my disappointment when I lifted up the seat and saw someone had already test flown this beauty! And it was no short test hop either. He had taken the time to test all his systems. The kitty litter worked.


...got to admire the pluck of the ducks. They were getting in after dark steering by the stars sort of. There were no lights at Army Hole, so when they got a feeling they were close they called on VHF and got someone to wave a flashlight in a certain way until they recognized the way, matched that with a star up in heaven, and sailed towards the star until they were in Army Hole. Then they had a drink.


...on to Magnolia Beach where I screw up!



Philsboat is essentially an IMB with the nose extended to a pointy bow. The width and multichine configuration are the same as IMB's. The cabin is 3" deeper because Phil is at least 3" taller than most of us. In a boat with a Birdwatcher cabin like this one added depth to the cabin makes it safer in that the righting forces in a knockdown are greater. That would be true of any boat if the center of gravity did not move with the cabin roof but with the normal cruiser adding depth to the cabin also means raising the crew deck up so the folks can see over the raised cabin. And that means the CG is elevated too, and then all bets are off concerning self righting. But with a boat like Philsboat eveyone rides down low inside looking out through the windows.

Here is a photo of Bob Williams' IMB:

In addition to the pointy bow and added headroom I added what I hope is a serious motor mount. Probably 3hp will drive it as fast as it will ever go and that at part throttle. But the motor well gets to looking pretty large even for such a small motor. For one thing it must be deep to put a short shaft motor on a deep stern like this so I ran it straight down to the boat's bottom. Working on the motor down it its well will be about impossible and you might need to keep an eye on your knuckles when you pull the starting rope. And the well must be surprisingly wide to allow the motor to swivel in steering although the usual case here will be to keep the motor locked straight ahead and steer with the tiller. The wide well pushed the rudder off center and you need a crooked tiller or rudder linkage to make it all work. I opted for a simple but crooked tiller.

I also added low seats like those I saw added to the two IMB's that came to the Lake Conroe Messabout. Pretty much the same as what I have in Scram Pram where the seats do double duty as water ballast tanks. Philsboat seats could easily be converted into water ballast tanks also but the IMB capsize tests imply the ballast isn't needed.

The sail rig uses a balanced lug, 113 square feet and the same as that of a Bolger Windsprint.

Philsboat uses taped seam construction. Five sheets of 1/4" plywood, five sheets of 3/8" and three sheets of 1/2" plywood.

Actually the size and material list for Philsboat are about the same as that of Scram Pram. So which boat would be better? Take Philsboat if you are a pointy bow guy. It should be better in really rough water. On the other hand Scram is wider and roomier. It has a flat step through bow that will splash and spit in rough water but makes beaching a very nice experience.

Update, 2007. Chris Feller completed his Philsboat, probably the first prototype completed, and brought it to the 2007 Rend Lake Messabout. Very well made and to plans except he used the 91 sq ft lugsail he had on hand for his AF3, with some mast rake changes he calculated with his "sail area math". Sailed correctly rigtht off the drawing board, so to speak. We had a chance to use it for a few really nice days. In a good sailing breeze, say 10 to 15 knots with occasional whitecaps, our gps bobbed between 5.5 and 6mph for two hours of reaching as we crossed back and forth on the big lake. When I used the Philsboat I thought it was probably just as easy to enter from a beach as the blunt bowed Scram. The front deck is about 2' high so you can sit on it and swing you legs around onto the deck and then into the cabin.

Chris is a big boy but there was plenty of room inside for the two of us and more. Rumor has it that at the campsite the night before Chris slept in the Philsboat on the trailer with an airconditioner in the front hatch plugged into the campsite power. So the boat is plenty big in the way most people would use it.

The stern layout has the motor in a small well to one side and the rudder offset to the other side to give the motor room to swing. There is no linkage to the tiller, the tiller is simply "unstraight" so that is falls on centerline at the skipper's hand. Seems to work well and is quite simple. Chris uses a 2hp Honda which has a fairly large cowling for its size and must be rotated 180 degrees to grab reverse. He said the motor well size is a bit too small for that. Karl James had the same problem with his Jewelbox a long time ago and simply cut away the side of the hull in top of the motor well region - after all it is just there for looks. Chris said he tried the boat under power and found it went 6 mph max, just like under sail. No surprize to me. My Birdwatcher also maxes out at 6mph under 3hp and under 5.5 hp. This sort of hull will only go so fast. Add more power and you just dig a deeper hole and make a bigger wake - you won't go faster. But sometimes more power is nice on a windy day.

(As an update, Chris has brought his Philsboat to several more Rend Lake meets. In 2008 the meet was very windy and Philsboat got a full windows wet knockdown with Chris and Tom Hamernik on board. She self righted with no issues and they kept right on sailing, but Chris confessed he has 100 pounds of lead shot under the seats. Also he is using a 3hp vintage Johnson which he says is quieter and smoother than the Honda.)

You might recall from the Prototypes section recently that there was another Philsboat being built in California. That one last I heard was about to be launched. Has more changes from blueprint than Chris's boat but still is pretty true to form. Seems to be known as Bumble and made by Rex Meach.

And in New Zealand Rob Kellock has been sailing his with a junk rig. He has been knocked down a couple of times and self righted as planned:

Plans for Philsboat are $45.


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.

I think David Hahn's Out West Picara is the winner of the Picara race. Shown here on its first sail except there was no wind. Hopefully more later. (Not sure if a polytarp sail is suitable for a boat this heavy.

Here is a Musicbox2 I heard about through the grapevine.

This is Ted Arkey's Jukebox2 down in Sydney. Shown with the "ketchooner" rig, featuring his own polytarp sails, that is shown on the plans. Should have a sailing report soon.

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.

A view of the Caroline prototype showing a lot of the inside, crew on fore deck. Beautiful color:

And here is another making I think its maider voyage in the Texas 200. (I'm told the Chinese rig will be replaced by the blueprint rig.)

I gotta tell you that on the Caroline bilge panels I made an error in layout and they are about 1" too narrow in places on the prototype plans. I have them corrected but it always pays, even with a proven design, to cut those oversized and check for fit before final cutting.

And a Deansbox seen in Texas:

The prototype Twister gets a test sail with three grown men, a big dog and and big motor with its lower unit down. Hmmmmm.....




1oct09, Bevels, Larsboat

15oct09, Transom Height, Jonsboat

1nov09, Ballast Again, Piccup Pram

15nov09, Ballast Again2, Caprice

1dec09, Weight Problems, AF4Casa

15dec09, Ballast Again3, Raider

1jan10, Knockdown Recovery 1, RioGrande

15jan10, Knockdown Recovery 2, Caroline

1feb10, Emergency Flotation, Mayfly16

15feb10,IMB Capsize Test, IMB

1mar10,Wood Vs Aluminum, Blobster

15mar10,Rigging A Lugsail, Laguna

1apr10,Beefing A Mast, Frolic2

15apr10,Rigging Sharpie Sprit Sails, Sportdory

1may10,Small Boat Rudders, Blobster

15may10, AF4 rebottom1, Catbox

1jun10, AF4 rebottom2, Ozarkian

15jun10, Rend Lake 2010, Vector

1jul10, AF4 rebottom3, Wooboto

15jul10,Texas200a, Mikesboat

1aug10,Texas200b, Family Skiff

15aug10,Texas200c, Cormorant

1sep10,Texas200d, Trilars


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

Plyboats Demo Download


Brian builds Roar2

Herb builds AF3

Herb builds RB42

Barry Builds Toto

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