Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15July10)This issue will recap day 1 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.


Tim Walker & co test fly his new Robote, built from plans in my book.




Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.




2010 Texas200b


...Actually there is no real "start" to the Texas 200. No starter's horn, whistle, flag or gun. On the appointed day you go when you are ready. So I suppose the start is spread over perhaps 8 hours with the first going off at first light (or sooner?) and the last maybe at noon when they have finished tinkering.


...so we tossed our last bags into Caprice at sunrise and Chuck checked out of the motel. He had two reasons to get off early, one to avoid the usual strong winds that raise a hell of a chop in the big wide shallow lagoon. It is maybe 15 miles of that before entering the confines of the "ditch". And he hoped to avoid being slowed as rescuer for the boats that founder in those conditions in the first hours. I gather the first 15 miles of the Texas200 can be the most troublesome.

But today the winds were light! Maybe 10 mph and perfect for an easy run to the ditch. As we cleared the harbor we could see the sails of the group, all strung out ahead of us for many miles as far as we could see like beads on a necklace. In a while we started to catch up to some with Caprice, now under full sail...

I guess we caught the PuddleDucks first. With their short hulls their hull speeds were maybe 4mph, so they were looking at a ten hour hitch if all went well. Most of them were reefed as they expected the usual big blow that didn't happen this morning.

Here's another showing great imagination with a stern mast and roller reefed main sail. At this point he hardly needed the air filled sponsons. Almost everyone had some foam on the masthead to prevent turtling in a capsize.

And another Duck. I am pretty sure there was at least one more but I don't recall passing it on the first day. The Ducks certainly make this event a big adventure.

After a while is was our turn to get passed by faster boats that had left later. Andrew Linn with Sean Moffitt as crew got their machine in gear and got to us before we gained the ditch...

Remember this is the boat built prefab at home and then assembled in a few hours on the beach at Port Mansfield. You can see in this photo the wide expanse of the lagoon. But a very large portion of the lagoon is shall we say waist deep? It is deceptive to look at it in that you get the idea there is some deep water out there while in fact you can be a mile from shore and see a fisherman standing in knee deep water. And maybe he didn't get there with a boat - he might have just waded out from the shore. So this is the realm of the shallow boat for sure. And I can imagine this wide shallow water gets really nasty in a blow. Except for the dredged channel there is no deep water as I recall and that is about true for the whole 200 miles.

Andrew slid up to us for a close photo...

Wing and wing with leeboard up. Then he slid on past us...

We caught John just before we got to the ditch as I recall. He had outfitted this 12' Echo for cruising with his gear and supplies stored in what used to be the foot well.


...Notice how John, who is from Florida, is armored all over against the sun. From most photos you might think the temp here is in the 50's but the temp is actually in the 90's all the time and the wise are covered over against the sun. This was one of my real concerns about attending the cruise. Could I deal with the heat? Well, it is just as hot near St Louis as it is in southern Texas at this time of year. In the midwest we have humidity, sticky sweaty summers with a thunderstorm each evening that usually just adds to the stick and no wind to blow it away. In the Texas200 you don't have that ruinous humidity and you have a steady strong breeze all day. However the sun is much more punishing in Texas and you need to prepare for it. My next picture shows Chuck in his Caprice office....

Lots of important tricks learned here from the master. First the sun top is on simple bows and folds down in a minute which we always did when making port. The top is a Sandra Leinweber creation made from three layers of material. The top and and bottom layers are simple cloth and in between is the secret layer of aluminized bubble wrap stuff. So the inside layer never heats up. Cool! It has to be low slung to clear the spars and we used a boat hook as a center prop as you see. Another important feature is that it has "ear flaps" that close in the sides if needed. Here Chuck has his flap down. The flaps velcro up when not needed. So you are sort of sailing while looking out of a cooool cave.

My copilot's position is there on the right with that big blue fender as my backrest. Another clue here is the water bottle which was always kept close at hand and used constantly.

Chuck has a thick walled commercial cooler stowed below filled with half gallon water jugs frozen solid at home and some loose ice on top. Drinks like soda and Gatoraide were kept outside the cooler mostly with two or three inside getting cold. Not that much cold food inside the cooler - some eggs mostly. We drank the ice water as the blocks melted. The cooler kept all cold up until the Padre Island Yacht Club where it was refilled with ice but that was about four days after filling it at the Leinweber Ranch so it certainly worked well.

Next, the Chuck has installed an inch of foam insulation under the decks that form the cabin roof. And we sailed with the hatches open. Even though Caprice is painted a dark color it never got hot inside! Chuck and I are both afternoon nappers and it was a treat to jump down inside at any time for some quick ZZZ's. I suppose this seems obscene to the guys in the Ducks but there was no hardship for us.

The usual routine was to butter up with spf50 in the morning and again about noon. We didn't bundle up like the guys in the open boats. We never suffered. No trace of a sunburn in 5 days on the water!


Approaching the ditch we started catching some factory boats. These two guys as I recall were famous for having on board a gasoline generator needed to run their electric drink blender! There were lots of factory boats on the cruise, in fact maybe most of the boats were factory made. We passed this Potter15 but it took us a lot of effort as he was popping right along. We were in the ditch by this time.

And as soon as we got to the ditch, right at noon as I recall, the wind blew up to 20 or so just as Chuck had anticipated. We had full sail up and saw Linn ahead pulled up on shore with his Laguna. It's quite easy to pull up in the ditch since it is narrow and I suppose you are always fifty yards from shore or closer. We were at times overpowered with full sail up and decided to touch shore and reef the main. Not sure why Linn had pulled over but it may have had something to do with checking his quickly built hull. Anyway, back in the ditch Chuck left me at the tiller while he flooded the starboard ballast tank to make things even more comfortable. Now we zinged along with no work required at the sheets. Caprice was going 8mph on Chuck's gadget with no effort on our part. It was better than a powerboat. Later in the trip we thought Caprice really wanted to go 7 mph all the time if left to her own. Chuck's take on the situation was that in the ditch we were getting a knot of current going our way. So we trucked on down the ditch.

The ditch gets pretty narrow for most of its length in this area. Here is an interesting photo...

Note the proximity of the shore and keep in mind we were just as close to the unseen shore behind us. There were "fishing shacks" along the way here and there. Very few were occupied. All supplies to these dwellings must have come from Port Mansfield or Corpus Christi many sea miles away.

The Hobie is flying past us. I'll jump ahead a bit and say the Hobie completed the cruise with no problems I am aware of. The couple has all there gear and supplies on board and not a whole lot of reserve buoyancy on the hulls but it still worked fine. I'm told the rig is "custom" in that a previous pitchpole resulted in mast damage that was resolved by cutting 8' off the mast and cutting the sail to fit. So she had a very snug rig for a Hobie. Still it was impressive, passing us reliably every day with no troubles!


I don't think Haps Cut is marked as such on any map. But when you get there you would know it by the sign on the shore. It is on a cut to a lagoon that eventually opens into the next large bay to the north. The fishermans's map showed that lagoon as just 2' deep. Here is a wide view google map of the area

You can see the straight ditch that we were following for twenty miles. Looks like that lagoon drains through a man made cut that Hap named after himself. The cut had two important features for the cruise which is why it is the first stop. First there are a few docks that the larger boats can tie to, plus a pretty nice beach for the rest of us. And there is the only grove of shade trees on the whole trip it seems. When Chuck and I got there I saw almost no people even though I suppose there 20 boats there already. Looking around I saw everyone resting in the shade and we sooned joined them. No cell phone reception here. Here is a closer google view..

Alas, Haps Cut also has a down side. It has the most vile mud bottom you can imagine. Illinois mud is nothing like this stuff. I figure that shallow lake has all sorts of evil goo brewing inside it and it drains out the cut. So we have a sulfurous stinky sticky goo that goes down at least knee deep, proven by first hand experience. And the entrance to the cut is not that easy to negotiate such that some folks ran into shallow goo pretty far out and had to wade back to shore through a fair distance of the schmutz. Oh well! Luckily Chuck knew the tricks of the entrance. And I should proudly say here that Caprice was the first boat in the cruise to reef and motor each day. With the push of Mr Honda we ran the bow well up on shore and were able to step with clean feet on and off the Caprice snout. Once past the muck the shore was actually quite nice. What appears to be light colored sand is actually dried grass that was like walking on a carpet.


...as the afternoon passed. Here are some more...

And looking the other way...

There are some interesting boats here now. Two proas. A nice Pelican which is bright finished all over and is pulled totally out of the water in the previous photo. You can see about the only failing that the factory boats have in that they seldom can be pulled totally up on the beach leaving their crew to walk through some schmutz. Due to mud conditions there was no swimming here.

The smaller boats and the late starters filtered in as the day went down. Chuck and I walked the beach and counted 43 just before turning in. I think there were a couple more hidden from us. I assume all starters made it to Haps Cut. Indeed, this is the first time we saw the fleet assembled since at Port Mansfield they were scattered at slips and beaches throughout the town.

Next time... On to Corpus Christi!

Family Skiff


The Family Skiff is large enough to swallow up three men or maybe a family with two kids. She has two benches that are 7' long and there should be plenty of room for all. I would say her fully loaded maximum weight might be 900 pounds and her empty weight about 350 pounds, leaving about 550 pounds for captain and crew and gear.

At the same time the Family Skiff can easily be handled solo, although with just the weight of the skipper she will not be a stable as when heavily loaded. The boat also has two large chambers for buoyancy/storage and I can see her used as a solo beach cruiser because the benches and the floor space are large enough for a sleep spot. This shape of hull has proven to be both fast and able in rough water, a lot better than a similar flattie. I've made her deep, too, with lots of freeboard.

The balanced lug rig sets on short spars and sails very well reefed, in fact can be set up with jiffy reefing. The spars are all short and easily made and stowed, the mast being but 14.5' long and setting 97 square feet of sail. In addition there are oar ports for those with lots of time and little money and a motor well for those with lots of money and little time. Two horsepower is all that a boat like this can absorb without going crazy. The motor well is actually an open self draining well that uses the full width and depth of the stern. It will come in handy for storing the wet and muddy things you don't want inside the boat, like anchors and boots. I've suggested in the plans that the rudder can be offset to one side a bit to give more room for the motor. both Petesboat and Frolic2 have used an offset rudder with no harm other than perhaps needing a curved tiller to make it more comfortable. In the case of Petesboat the 60hp motor was on centerline and the rudder way over yonder to one side with linkage to a centerline tiller. Pete said the large rudder offset had no effect on steering.

Paul Ellifrit built the prototype in Missouri in a matter of a few weeks as I recall, including this model first:

Then construction went quickly in spite of cold epoxy weather:

... and his own polytarp sail. He brought it to the Rend Lake Messabout:

We agreed there that I should have drawn the mast taller but she was otherwise right on. We had no strong wind that weekend so we don't know yet how she would handle that but this shape hull is about the best I can draw for rough water. She is big and roomy inside...

An ideal family boat in a way. The offset motor/rudder all seemed to work well. We were all happy with the outcome.

Family Skiff is a tape seam hull requiring two sheets of 1/2" plywood, five sheets of 3/8" plywood and two sheets of 1/4" plywood.

Plans for Family Skiff are $40.


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.....




15aug09, Beach Designs, Cormorant

1sep09, Taped Seams, Trilars

15sep09, Birdwatcher Cabins, Philsboat

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


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