Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

1024 Merrill St, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(1 June 2019) We will review capsize recovery. The 15 June issue will cover the Rend Lake Messabout.



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.

REND LAKE 2019...

...will take place on June 7 and 8, always on the weekend before Father's Day weekend. I promised to remind all of us to try to get the good campsites on the North Sandusky loop. They are sites 24 through 30 and especially 26 through 29 if possible, this at the North Sandusky campground at Rend Lake. Let's give it a try. This is not really organized but if you nail one down, let me know. I will be trying too. UPDATE: AS OF DEC 6 WE HAVE ALREADY NAILED SITES 26 THROUGH 28. IF YOU DON'T GET A SITE NOW, DON'T FORGET THAT SEVERAL TENTS ARE ALLOWED AT EACH SITE AND YOU CAN DOUBLE OR TRIPLE UP ON A SITE. THERE WILL BE ROOM FOR ALL.


Paul Moffitt said he gave his theater students the choice of building two Rio Grandes or cleaning the theater. Thus.....



Contact info:


Jim Michalak
1024 Merrill St,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.



Capsize Lessons


...is an Englishman, now living in Canada, who designs trimarans. But he has extensive dinghy sailing background and is an expert at capsize recovery. During Sail OK 2012 he spent a couple of hours explaining to all of us the process and details of recovery.

I've never gotten too deeply into this subject. I am essentially a non floater, thus a non swimmer, and for me to go overboard without a life jacket is like skydiving without a parachute. So I don't enjoy practicing capsizes and stop doing it long ago. The subject scares people away. But Richard's demonstrations certainly show it can be done reliably with proper preparation. And that is the point I took away from his excellent effort. Most of our boats are sort of prepared for a capsize, provided the designer has designed in the require emergency buoyancy and the builder hasn't compromised it. After that it comes down to nitty gritty details that most of us ignore. Luckily at the demostration Richard rubbed our noses into those details.


...he discussed the best type of life jacket to have. Unfortunately it sort of started with "they don't make this anymore" but I bet they do. You might need a bit of a search. Not supposed to have bulging pockets or straps, anything that will foul as you try to slither your way back into the boat. Richard is holding between his knees the jacket he used in the tests and to me it appears to be what I used to call a kayaker's jacket, many small segments, zippered without straps. The one I had long ago was I think an Omega and it was my all time favorite, for reasons other than capsize recovery, but it died of old age.


...Richard walked down the line of boats at the meet, maybe 20 or 30 there, and one by one discussed the good and bad points of each boat with regard to capsize recovery. It was sort of cruel, although Richard is likeable and jovial. He didn't ask "whose boat is this?" or anything, just lit into each one. He was going to capsize test a boat to demonstrate the details of recovery and was chosing a subject as he did this. But this is when the real knowledge came out as he discussed details that would make a boat better for recovery.

I think right now would be a good time to say what type boats are best for capsize recovery. Not too difficult to guess at this - the board sailing boats of yore, like the Laser and Sunfish, might be the best. They are totally decked so they take on no water, and they are low in the water so the swimmer can simply roll onto the righted hull with little hoisting required. One issue with really small light boats, to me, not sure if Roger discussed this, is that they can be so dominated by the swimmer's weight that reboarding might not be possible. Imagine a 250 pound swimmer trying to get into a 70 pound boat. You might think that as he presses down on the boat's edge to reboard that the boat might simply flop over on top of him. This wasn't demonstrated but I suspect it can be true.

Anyway, down the line of boats we went. Who wants to be Richard's test boat??


OK, LISTEN UP! If there is any message I took away from this it is that your boat must be prepared in detail to allow a routine recovery. Don't leave anything to chance. If anything can go wrong it will! Be prepared! WHEN A REAL CAPSIZE OCCURS IT WILL LIKELY BE IN VERY BAD CONDITIONS. IN VERY BAD CONDITIONS THERE MAY BE NO ONE AROUND TO HELP YOU!

Hope I haven't scared you away.

When your boat goes over don't get trapped beneath the rig if you can. Don't get tangled and Richard advised all carry a knife at the ready, secured and tethered to the life jacket for instant grabbing, with one handed easy blade extention, with which you can cut yourself loose if you do get tangled. I'm not a knife expert but I think he added it should have saw teeth on both edges so you need not worry about its orientation.

Next, give a lot of thought to how to right the hull. Normally you would step on a lateral board of some sort like a keel, but it might not be accessable to you for several reasons. It might be retracted at the time or too high out of the water for grabbing. So you really need something else and he suggested lines tied securely, and to hefty fastenings, on each side of the boat, clipped under the wale, that can be grabbed and used to pull the boat upright. He suggested securing the ropes with clips made of slitted pvc pipe that would secure the rope in normal use, but would easily release the rope when it is tugged. So that is one detail to think about.


...most of us will be faced with the task of getting back in. If you have a very low freeboard boat like a Sunfish you can just lean on one side and grab something and pull yourself back in. Sounds easy but many boats have no detail that allows you to "grab something". So you need to put it there. I think Richard preferred ropes that run along the inside of the side seats or decks that can be reached by the swimmer. Again they need to be stout and well attached. They will take the full weight of a frightened man. Another simple option is a grip lip on the inside of the seat. I suppose there is less chance of snagging that but I think it might require better hand strength than the rope. OK, so that will work with a shallow boat.

Also there should be nothing around to snag the recovering swimmer as he tries to reboard the boat. Richard pointed to external oar lock sockets as a real danger. The reboarding area needs to be slick and free of any brackets.

If you have a boat with a deeper hull that alone won't do. You will need a well planned step of some sort to allow you to reboard. A ROPE LADDER WON'T DO! I was glad Richard pointed that out because I had one once and found it impossible to reboard with one at any time, even after jumping over for a casual dip. As you step into one of these you almost always have you legs swing under the boat's bottom and you can't get up the ladder then. What Richard suggests, and what he used in the demostration, is to rig a stirrup which you can easily get to as you swim. The length of the stirrup needs to be just so and that part wasn't quite clear to me. I think it needs to be such that when you step into it and pull up that your knee is sort of even with the wale, allowing you to get right in. But I'm not sure and there was discussion about it and Richard did rerig the stirrup he rigged in the first demostration before he did the second. All this stuff again needs to be stout and secure enough to take the full weight of a frightened man.

There are other options of course. A real ladder would be great. I've suggested a simple toe slot in the rudder, although I notice no one ever builds a real boat that way. Then the rudder and its fittings need to be stout enough for the weight. I am sure Richard would point out that entering over the rudder, with its tiller and brackets and gear, is an invitation to a snag or sliced skin. A few of the boats at the meet did have a stirrup rigged which is a bit of a surprise.


I guess the big message is don't trust to luck. Have a plan, practice if you can. The details are actually pretty inexpensive. Have a reboarding zone with nothing to snag or cut you on the way up. Have a stirrup or ladder to give a boost up over those high sides, and have good hand grabs for the final pull. Richard also noted that you shouldn't reboard face down into the cockpit, as you would if you simply pulled yourself up and over the side on your belly. Do a bit of a roll in the end so you go over face up. Again, avoid all tangles and snags.


At the time we had a strong onshore wind with whitecaps and no one was boating voluntarily. But Richard pointed out those things were ideal for testing, giving a chance for a real capsize and a fetching up on the launching beach if the recovery failed. It was cold as you see in the photos, no more than 50F, although I'm sure the water was warmer. Richard told of breaking ice in England to give capsize lessons so he was not deterred and no special suits were worn.

He chose Stan Roberts' nice new Family Skiff for the demo, saying it probably had the emergency buoyancy needed and also had the high sides that would make for a good "high sided boat" demonstration to show us the of the special rigging he was suggesting. He removed the mizzen to simplify things a bit. Family Skiff was designed without the mizzen so it would still handle well. Richard pointed out that although the mizzen was a complication on the stern that might need watching in a capsize, it also would provide more strong handholds for reboarding.

The Family Skiff had no motor mounted so the cut down area for the motor was open and Richard immediately rigged a stirrup for reboarding there. So if the outboard had been mounted the reboarding process would have to be rethought. He also rigged a rope running the length of the cockpit as a grab rope to be used when coming over the side, if needed.

Well, I gotta tell you as the designer that I had mixed emotions about having my design be the "winner" of the demo. Most likely Richard didn't know if was mine. But it needs to be done!

After the lecture and rigging of the emergency ropes, off they went into the blow....

A half mile or so out they forced a capsize (pretty easy given the wind)...

It nearly turtled, which surprised me since the lug rigged boats I tested long ago never would turtle because the buoyancy of the wooden yard would hold them sideways. It might have gone full turtle since it was felt the mast had struck bottom preventing that...

They had capsized it with leeboard up high on purpose so that would not be used to right the boat. Richard grabbed the painter (bow line) and held it aft while Stan put his weight on it to lever the boat (slowly, be patient) upright. But a designated line just for this should be secured, with easy access by the swimmer, just for this.

Once upright, Richard swam around to his recovery stirrup and got back in the boat at the stern.

Then I believe he helped pull Stan over the side, I've forgotten (if I ever knew)...

Then they sailed back easily. The whole process seemed fairly reliable and somewhat quick. I was impressed.

Once back on shore we had a peek at the carnage...except there really wasn't any. There was very little water inside and the did no bailing to return.


This time capsizing such that they could reright the boat with the leeboard. Plus Richard had fine tuned his stirrup. Also Stan was instructed to reboard over the side solo, which he did, forgetting to roll as he entered so he went in belly down and got a bit tangled. But the second was a bit faster.

I guess that is about it. I really want to thank Richard Woods for the demo. Pretty sure it was the most significant demonstration I've ever seen at a messabout.


QT Skiff



Paul Krayniak of Odessa, NY, built the prototype QT, his first boat, in a couple of weeks. Here is the letter he wrote me:

"Hi Jim,

Building Qt was very easy and a great learning experience. I have read Payson's books, so there were no real surprises in this project. As you know, I mostly used hand tools, and really didn't need much else, though the oar I built with a belt sander was quite a revelation. I used a rasp, handsaw and plane which were my grandfather's, so that added something to the experience. Altogether, including making oars and painting, I spent about 60 hours abuilding. I used polyurethane glue, which worked fine, but makes a real mess when it expands into foam, and costs more than epoxy. She was painted with alkyd porch and deck enamel, which gives a very nice finish and should be extremely tough (according to the salesperson). The plywood was AC exterior, the other wood was yellow pine. If I were doing this project again, I would use fir instead of pine, the Weldwood glue as recommended by you, and latex paint since the alkyd takes a long time to cure. Also, I think Grandfather's memory has been honored enough, and I would use a table saw and a belt sander for sure.

When I took QT to the water for her first trial, it was quite windy and I hadn't rowed for many years, so our path was pretty erratic. For the next trial, I adjusted the oarlock position up the oars an inch, moved their pivots two inches astern and adjusted my seat to get the level oars at belly button height, per your instructions. It was still pretty windy but the rowing went much better. The next time out, the wind was calm and we went for quite a long way, about 5 miles. I was very impressed with the small rowing effort required with this boat, and we covered the distance easily in about an hour and a half.

This testing was all done with my wife and me aboard. As I mentioned to you before, we are both big people. Frankly we had some doubts about quarter inch plywood holding us up, but it seems very sturdy and tolerates us walking on the bottom just fine. Also, we are able to change places and otherwise move around in her OK.

We tried putting our 70 pound grandson in with us and it didn't work well. If he sat in the back, the drag increased noticeably, and if he sat in the front, the stem was immersed and the drag was bad. Our impression was that she does best, given the limited places to sit, with two people of about the same size aboard. I'm sure, though, that all boats need to be balanced to do best.

The project has been loads of fun and the most satisfying thing I've done for years. Thanks.


Later Paul reminded me that the idea behind his QT was first to have a boat to carry atop his motorhome.

He added, "QT fits very well on our motorhome. I made a simple bow holder from a short piece of 2x6 bolted flat to the roof. It has an outline of the wales routed into it, and I just hook the bow gusset over it. With lines running from eyebolts in the 2x6 to an eyebolt through QT's stem, it ain't going anywhere. The stern is fastened with lines down to the bumper braces and tied to the ladder to prevent lateral movement. The oars fit nicely with my fishing poles in a 10 inch square compartment which goes all the way across the motorhome. My wife and I can have her ready to travel or row in 5 minutes."

Well Paul certainly did an excellent job. One comment about his experience. Trimming you and your boat for level operation is very important as he points out. Always take the time to do it. I always give oarlock locations on my drawings but they are just suggestions and don't be shocked if you have to tinker with them to get the boat right. Often you can't tell if the boat is trimmed right without having an observer dockside to advise. If you are rowing solo or with passengers, you will need separate oarlocks for each configuration. When Paul tried to row with his grandson making a crew of three, it didn't work because the boy's weight ended up in the boats ends and threw off the trim. The usual solution would be to put the boy between the two adults, in the middle of the boat. But QT may not really be big enough for three, she's only 13' long.

The QT plans also included a page of the same hull set up for a small motor, say 5hp max. Eventually one got built by Barron Wester. He he goes...

So you get both the rowing plans and the powerboat plans in the same packet. This is a simple nailed together job from three sheets of 1/4" plywood. No jigs, no lofting.

Plans are $25.


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.






15jun18, RendLake 2018, Mixer

1jul18, Horse Power, Vireo14

15jul18, Motors per the Coast Guard, Vamp

1aug18, Propeller Pitch, Oracle

15aug18, Propeller Slip, Cormorant

1sep18, Measuring Prop Thrust, OliveOyl

15sep18, Taped Seams, Philsboat

1oct18, Plywood Butt Joints, Larsboat

15oct18, Small Boat Rudders, Jonsboat

1nov18, Sink Weights, Shanteuse

15nov18, Piccup Spinoffs, Piccup Pram

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


Mother of All Boat Links

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JB Builds AF4

JB Builds Sportdory

Hullform Download

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Brian builds Roar2

Herb builds AF3

Herb builds RB42

Barry Builds Toto

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