Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

1024 Merrill St, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(1 Jul 2017) This issue will continue the rowing series. And more rowing in the 15 July issue.



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.


John Kunkle's Ozarkian sits on a beach on the White River where these boats evolved over 100 years ago. John's boat is widened and strengthened and has a 10 horse 4 stroke that pushes it 16 mph. He can motor upstream to the put in point. In ancient times these boats would have been strictly float boats with return to the put in by local railroads. They had a paying "sport" plus a guide plus camping gear and likker for the trip.



Contact info:


Jim Michalak
1024 Merrill St,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.





(Before we get too involved in this I should mention that I have never tried any of the following techniques myself. This is just a paper study for me. If you think I've really blown the analysis, let me know with details and I'll rewrite with corrections.)

Increasing power will improve speed. Remember the formula for power is an arrangement of force, time and distance.

One way to increase power is to work out at the gym a lot and increase your muscle size such that you can pull with more force. Then slide the oars out a bit such that the extra force you can develop is converted into extra hull speed.

Another way to increase power is to quicken your stroke, pulling with the same force through the same distance. The increased oar handle speed is instantly converted to increased blade speed. You'd be rowing with lots of short quick strokes. This method works well with short boats that don't carry well between strokes.

You could also lengthen the stroke, keeping the force and stroke frequency the same. With any boat, especially a fixed seat boat with short oars, there are limits on the stroke length. If the oars start sweeping through large angles, efficiency will be lost.

Figure 1 shows the usual sliding seat arrangement. Here the rower sits on a seat that slides on rails, his feet are strapped into shoes which are fastened to the hull. In position A, the start of the stroke, the oarsman has his arms extended and his knees drawn up such that his hands are near his ankles. By extending his legs on the power stroke at the same time as he pulls on the oars, the rower greatly increases the length of his stroke compared to a fixed seat. The seat looks to be sliding about 2' during the stroke. In the diagram he has about 4-1/2' of oar handle stroke, about a 50% increase over a fixed seat. If the cadence of the stroke is the same as for a fixed seat, a 50% increase in horsepower would result. (He might also pull with a lot more force on the handles, but remember all the force he generates will transfer through his arms and hands. So I wouldn't expect a large increase in handle force in a long run.)

All the forces produced on the rower's hands are reacted through his feet alone and the human body is well built for that. None of the force reacts through butt friction.

Here are some arguments against the sliding seat.

For one thing the sliding of the seat may require a long space. (But the boat should be long anyway to take advantage of the extra power.)

The sliding seat can be a hazard in rough conditions. That may be a double hazard because you must strap your feet to the boat for the system to work.

The length of the oars must usually be increased because if you double the length of the stroke you will double the sweep of the blade. The angles the oar will sweep through will become excessive and inefficient if the oar is not lengthened. The lengthening of the oars will usually mean the addition of outriggers to help place the oar handles conveniently.

All these things may be worth the bother if you are the right person in the right boat. But maybe not. As shown in the figure I dreamed up for Roar2, a 50% increase of the power will increase boat speed about 15% . Instead of going 4 knots at full stretch with a fixed seat you might make 4-1/2 or 5 knots with a sliding seat. Normally I advise against it for a shorter boat. A longer narrow boat will probably be needed to take advantage of the sliding seat.

And increasing the speed potential of the boat will do no good if you don't pack the extra horsepower needed to push it to the higher speed. The rowing rig is just a transmission to match your power output to the needs of the boat.

There is another set up - the sliding rigger. In this boat the rower is seated on a fixed seat. The riggers that hold the oarlocks are not secured to the hull but instead are fastened to a sliding car which also contains the foot brace. The rower's feet are tied to the brace as with the sliding seat. But now his feet push the rowlocks aft as he pulls the handles forward. The overall power effect is the same as for the standard sliding seat. But the details are a bit different. For one thing the rower's weight doesn't shift around causing trim changes and hobby horsing. And all the force on the rower's hands reacts through his butt again. I've never seen one of these rigs in action. I read somewhere that when first tried in racing shells decades ago the sliding rigger boats easily beat conventional sliding seat boats and were soon written out of the rule books. Maybe so.

Figure 3 shows the system Ron Rantilla developed. Ron started with a standard canoe in which you paddle facing forward, (an advantage of paddling as opposed to rowing). To avoid having to transfer the paddle from side to side for directional control (an advantage of rowing and double paddling over single paddling) he mounted two paddles on a pillar in the center of the boat. The paddles attached to the pillar with a springy thingy that carried a lot of the paddle weight while allowing flexibility to paddle. Thus he was able to work each paddle with each hand. Ron lengthened the paddles into oars and thus he was able to row facing forward, (his "oars" were pivoted in the center of the boat in this case, not at any oarlocks, and his hands were outside the pivot). Forward facing push rowing, sometimes standing, has been used for a long time in certain areas and seems to be an inefficient way of using the human anatomy. Even fancy articulated oars that allow you to pull row while facing forward have been invented. But Ron's system does allow forward facing pull rowing without the mechanical losses of an articulated system. Then Ron found he could run lines from foot pedals though pulleys to the oar looms and get his leg power into the equation. Then he found, that by attaching the leg lines just right and adjusting the center pillar springy thingy just right, he could make the oars dip just the proper amount under power and feather the proper amount on retrieval. No hands required in the proper conditions!!

I haven't seen Ron's system in action but there are certainly several advantages. None of the stroke power need be transmitted through the arms and hands - they can just be used to guide the oars if needed. You face forward. You sit in one position. You're feet aren't strapped to the boat.

Clearly there is some complexity of gear involved, but it's all pretty reliable and understandable and efficient. I guess the reaction forces on your body go out through the butt again. I would think a conventional sliding seat boat could boast more "power" because the rowers arm and back movements can add to the length of the stroke.

Ron wrote about his invention and experiences in MESSING ABOUT IN BOATS several times. He's not a racer but has raced the system with some success against sliding seat ocean racers. Like the sliding rigger experience, some of the conventional sliding seat racing organizations won't let him compete.


VIREO14, ROWBOAT, 14' X 3.5', 80 POUNDS

Vireo14 is a 14' version of the original 12' Vireo which was quite popular with all of its builders. In this case the extra length comes from a straight "stretch" of the original design. By that I mean that the same cross sections were used but now spaced 14" apart instead of 12". Another way to lengthen a boat is to add a straight "plug" in the center as is sometimes done to even completed boats and full size ships. I doubt if the stretch has any advantages over the plug except maybe in looks. Even there a short plug is hardly noticable, for example in the case of where I put a 30" plug in my Toto canoe to make Larsboat.

The extra length usually gives a bit more speed for the same power in a low powered boat, at least until windage gets to be a big factor. And in the case of Vireo it means about 110 pounds more capacity. The original 12' boat will float 290 pounds before the chines start to enter the water. Beyond that I would expect the boat to slow noticably, although boats with bows shaped like Vireo are superior in this respect. So you see that it is a push to float two large adults in the 12' Vireo. The Vireo14 will float the same way at 400 pounds and will be much better with the two adults. Hull weight will increase by 10 or 15 pounds, of course.

The prototype Vireo14 shown in these photos was built by Steve Fisher in New York in a matter of a few weeks. If you look at his construction photo below you will see that there is not a helluvalot involved. Steve elaborated on some of the details but with these small simple boats often there are between twenty and thirty pieces of wood to make counting everything.

Vireo14 uses taped seam construction needing four sheets of 1/4" plywood.

Vireo14 plans are $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.






15jul16, Ballast Calculations 2, Robbsboat

1aug16, Ballast Calculations 3, AF4

15aug16, Taped Seams, Cormorant

1sep16, Butt Joints, Vireo

15sep16, Old Outboards, Philsboat

1oct16, D'Arcy Ballast, Larsboat

15oct16, D'Arcy Ballast 2, Jonsboat

1nov16, D'Arcy Ballast 3, Piccup Pram

1dec16, Sail Area Math, Ladybug

15dec16, D'Arcy Thoughts, Sportdory

1jan17, AF3 Capsize, Normsboat

15jan17, The Weather, Robote

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


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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