Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

1024 Merrill St, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(1November 23) We jiffy reef a lugsail. In the 15 November issue we will reef a sharpie sprit sail.




... 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.

ALSO...In addition to the Duckworks downloads I also now have access to a large format inkjet printer which is making very nice full sized prints on paper. So I can return to what I started 30 years ago, you order direct from me by snail mail using the address above only with cash or check in US funds with the prices shown on this website, and I mail you full sized 2'x 3' paper prints. The price includes first class mail to US and Canada.


Bob Arant's Piccup Squared gets a "Das Boot: emblem. He writes, " Das Boot emblem. Happy little trouble maker...perfect for my Pickup Squared...granddaughter assists. Another great sailing year." (Das Boot is truely an epic film. It is currently available on You Tube, the free version is in German with English subtitles. You won't want to be a submariner after you watch it.)



Contact info:


Jim Michalak
1024 Merrill St,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.



Balanced Lug Jiffy Reef


Balanced lugsails are pretty interesting. I suppose they are one step away from a square sail. They no doubt have a long history that predates any fancy hardware, and now that fancy hardware is expensive and hard to find in some areas a fellow can still make an effective lugsail with stuff from the lumberyard. The spars are very short for the area set and need no standing rigging, making the lug ideal for a cartop or trailer boat that needs to be rigged in a few minutes. Here are the basics of the balanced lug sail:

basic balanced lug

To review a bit, this sail is "balanced" a bit around the mast, the best place to fasten the halyard to the yard is about 40% aft of the luff. Further forward and the sail will twist a lot and lose the ability to point well into the wind. Properly set up these sails will tack through about 100 degrees, very good for such low tech. The yard needs to be fastened loosely to the mast at the halyard with a parrel loop of some sort to keep it located especially in rough water. There are lots of ways to do that and rigging a balanced lug was covered in detail in another issue of this site. Down at the boom is a tack line set about 15% aft of the luff, although this is not as critical as the halyard location. Again, the tack line needs a parrel loop of some sort to keep the boom from moving in rough water. The tack needs to be set VERY tight, thus putting great tension in the luff. Without that tension the sail will twist when sailed to windward with great loses. (In fact since the tack is so short and easy to get at I always make it at least a two to one tackle. A simple effective set up is a line running from the hull, over the boom, and back to the hull to a cam cleat. A quick yank at the cam cleat will retension the rig in an instant in a two to one effort.) Lastly there is the sheet, the location of which is usually not critical at all. When sailing the balanced lug, the sail is left standing from tack to tack. One tack will result with the sail draping over the mast but the effect is not noticable no matter how bad it looks. The sail is usually very gentle in a jibe.

There are two other types of lugsails that I know of. A dipping lug is as above but without a boom. In that case the tack is tied right to the hull and the location of the sheet is critical since it has to stretch out the foot of the sail. Usually the dipping lug needs several locations to anchor the sheet, each to deal with a different point of sail. When tacking a dipping lug the tack and sheet are disconnected and the entire sail shifted around the mast, not a good arrangement for sailing in close quarters but OK for making a long passage with enough crew to do the job. Viking ships of old would set their square sail as a dipping lug.

The other common lug type is the standing lug. It's exactly the same as the balanced lug except that the tack line is tied to the forward end of the boom and the boom pivots there at the mast as with a gaff sail. As a result the boom of a standing lug will lift when there is pressure on the sail. When close hauled that won't matter because the sheet will pull the boom down, but when running off the wind the boom can lift a lot, allowing the yard to twist forward and that is bad. That can be cured with a vang from boom to mast. The balanced lug needs no vang and is effectively self vanging, the lift of the boom being very small because of the location of the tack line.


The balanced lug is secured to the boat with just the halyard and tack, and their parrels, so when you disconnect them the sail rolls up in a nice package. But you can also fix jiffy reefing gear to the balanced lug that stays with the package. You run the reefing gear once and it is forever there ready for use.

Here is a photo of Karl James' jewelbox with the jiffy reef lines (barely) visible. He has two reefs, both with jiffy reef lines permanently attached. Also shown in a "lazy lift" which is just a loose loop of line running from near the mast head, down around the boom though a pad to keep it located and back to the mast head. When Karl releases the halyard the sail will drop down, the boom lowers until the lazy lift becomes taut and then the sail will gather fairly neatly in the lazy lift.

jewelbox lugsail

Here is how the reef lines are run:

reef lines

There is a reef line tied permanently to each corner patch of the new reef foot. Those lines run down through faired holes drilled in the boom end, then they run to an open based cleat near the center of the boom. In practice those two reef lines can really be just one continuous line running from one reef corner, through the boom, through the base of the cleat, throught the other hole and one to the other reef corner.

The location of the holes in the boom is fairly critical. They must be placed such that when the reef lines are pulled tight and cleated, the corners of the reefed sail are pulled down and slightly outward to stretch the foot of the sail just the right amount. Expect to experiment. Since lug sails usually taper a bit, the reef line holes tend to fall slightly inside the unreefed attachments.

The location of the cleat on the boom isn't too critical except that it should be in a place handy when reefing. Better towards the front of the boom than aft.

Here's how you reef the sail in action:

reefed lug

First you loosen the halyard to lower the sail. If you have a lazy lift it will gather there clear of the deck. If not, gather the lowered sail in the boat.

Next grab one of the jiffy reef lines and pull until the new reef corner is hard against the boom and cleat the line to keep it there. Then grab the other jiffy reef line and pull until that reef corner is hard against the boom and cleat that line.

Tie in the reef patches in the middle of the sail.

Hoist the sail with lots of tension in the halyard. You may want to reset the tack to put lots of tension in the luff of the sail but with this method the tack and sheet are not changed.

That's it!

Taking the reef out is even easier. Just untie the reef patches, uncleat the jiffy reef lines, and hoist back to full sail. Always make sure you have lots of tension in the luff by resetting the tack line.




Mayfly14 is a straight forward flat bottomed plywood skiff for sailing and rowing. She's easy to build because her planks have no twists. That means that the chine log and wale bevels are constant for all practical purposes and can be presawn before assembly. The construction is of the simplest nail and glue variety with no building jigs or lofting required - an "instant" boat. The prototype was built by Garth Battista and kids in Halcottsville, NY.

I think this boat is about the right size for a lot of folks, although I might argue that it is too heavy to cartop with comfort and once you decide to trailer a boat you might as well go to a sixteen footer. Mayfly14 will take two adults easily and yet still be a wonderful solo boat.

The sail rig is a balanced lug which is easy to build and stow. I recommend that my customers sew their own sails either from common polytarp (as Garth did in the boat shown above) or real Dacron sailcloth. The plans show instructions for sewing in real sailcloth. You need a sewing machine that sews zigzag stitches and cheap home machines are usually good at that. I don't claim to be the world's best sailmaker but it is not majic. I can do it and so can you. The clothes you are wearing are ten times more complex than a small sail. There are a few rules to follow and I give an essay on that with each set of sailboat plans. In fact I suggest you sew your sails before you build your hull. Both sail and hull require about the same work space. Sew the sail first, roll it up, stuff it in a closet, and now your workspace is ready for your hull. Getting the sail done can get you over a big mental hurdle.

Garth's friend Ari made this Mayfly14 shown in shallow water at Long Island Sound:

Here is another by Don and Tom Burton in Illinois:

And another by John Dominique in Louisiana...

Mayfly14 needs three sheets of 1/4" plywood and two sheets of 1/2" plywood.

Mayfly14 plans are $30. But, the Mayfly14 plans are shown complete in reduced size in my book available from Duckworksmagazine.com along with Garth's blow-by-blow assembly photos plus a huge amount of other stuff.


Prototype News

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.






15nov22, Sharpie Reefing, Piccup Pram

1dec22, Making Oars, Batto

15dec22, Taped Seams, Sportdory

1jan23, Rowboat Setup, Normsboat

15jan23, Sail Area Math, Robote

1feb23, Bulkhead Bevels, Toto

15feb23, Trailering Boats, IMB

1mar23, Small Boat Rudders, AF4B

15mar23, Making Sink Weights, Scram Pram

1apr23, Sailrig Spars, RiverRunner

15apr23, Water Ballast, Mayfly16

1may23, AF3 Capsize, Blobster

15may23, Mast Tabernacles, Laguna

1jun23, Underwater Boards, QT Skiff

15jun23, Capsize Lessons, Mixer

1jul23, Rend Lake 2023, Vireo14

15jul23, Rigging Lugsails, Frolic2

1aug23, Horsepower, Oracle

15aug23, Sharpie Sprit Sails, Cormorant

1sep23, Prop Thrust, OliveOyl

15sep23, Leeboard Issues, Philsboat

1oct23, Prismatic Coefficient, Larsboat

15oct23, Figuring Displacement, Jonsboat


Mother of All Boat Links

Cheap Pages

Duckworks Magazine

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Kilburn's Power Skiff

JB Builds AF4

JB Builds Sportdory

Hullform Download

Puddle Duck Website

Brian builds Roar2

Barry Builds Toto

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