Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

1024 Merrill St, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(1 October 2017) We will take a sail in OliveOly. The 15 October issue will discuss water ballast.



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.


Tom Burton has started a Philsboat and I will bet it will be "different".



Contact info:


Jim Michalak
1024 Merrill St,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.



Sailing OliveOyl


I got this letter from Herb Mcleod who built the prototype OliveOyl. He also did the prototype AF3 an ancient while back so he writes lots of comparisons. Here is Herb a while way back in his AF3...

I think any comparisons are especially valid for him because I think he is using the exact same sail and rig on Olive, straight from his AF3. (A properly cared for sail made from real sail cloth will outlive most hulls.) Here is Herb in the new OliveOyl...

Hi Jim,

We had a break in the high pressure system sitting over us these past many weeks. The arctic air is moving down and over the next two days we will be going from highs of +25C to a predicted overnight low tonight of +1C. Needless to say to have this happen we have to see a lot of air movement, hence wind!

Yesterday we had very gusty NW winds of 25kph (15 mph) with gusts of 40 kph (25 mph). This is according to the official weather office measurements. There is a wall of rock on the east side of the lake which compresses the wind greatly increasing the speed beyond official measurements. The local conditions were swaying tops on the white pines, lots of white caps with foam steaks and in the short fetch on Lac MacA waves of a foot in height or more. Flags were standing out straight on their flag poles.

Yahoo wind! The air temperature was +14C so I donned my woolen socks, toque and survival suit went out for 4 hours of "testing".

I went out with the full sail at first to see how difficult it would be to handle this much sail in this wind. Compared to the AF3 OliveOyl was much easier to sail in these conditions. I was hit by many gusts that would have been problematic for the AF3 and OliveOyl handled them with ease. What I found is things happen much more slowly in OliveOyl giving more time to ease off the sheet when a gust hits. In other words the oscillation that occurs in response to a gust is much slower.

Running: OliveOyl was rock steady. The AF3 would some times start a death roll that could be difficult to tame.

Broad reach: Again rock steady and lots of fun and less risk of an accidental gybe in a puff.

Beam Reach: On this point of sail the AF3 could loose it in a strong puff. Every time I had an accidental capsize when sailing the AF3 it was on a beam reach with full sail. (As you know I also had what I would call a stupid capsized on the AF3 when Gord and I were standing on the deck adjusting the sail.) What would happen on a broad reach with the AF3 is that it would heel enough that the clew would dip into the water tripping the boat causing a capsize. Once water was entering the rowing ports on the AF3 it was very close to game over. I did not find any tendency for this to happen with OliveOyl. I think the greater beam and righting tendency work better on this point of sail to keep the clew above the water. In these wind conditions with full sail on the AF3 I would have to hike out on the gunnel to keep it upright. In fact in these wind conditions I would have had a reef in the AF3. In OliveOyl I just sat in the rear portion of the cockpit and enjoyed the ride.

Close hauled: OliveOyl also wins here. When sailing with 10 to 15 degrees of heel, pounding to windward was the similar for both boats. I think that the pounding actually is a bit less for OliveOyl because I am more confident that I can recover from a puff so I was able to accept greater heeling. But here is the interesting thing, OliveOyl behaved very differently in a gust. In the AF3 with full sail I would have to very quickly feather the sail and turn into the wind to prevent being overwhelmed. In OliveOyl, when a gust would hit, she would heel over to 20 to 25 degrees or so and just stay there! The bow would dig in a bit and she would sail on the V between the side and bottom and all pounding would stop! At no point did I get the feeling that OliveOyl would go over on its side.

I did not note any difference between OliveOyl and the AF3 regarding any problems with being "hard in the mouth" when encountering waves. Traditional sharpies were designed to keep the foot of the stem at or even below the water. As Bolger noted if the stem is in the water this could cause the front end to root around when hit by waves coming in on an angle. Traditional sharpies were kept sharp in the bow and narrow on the beam to decrease this problem. I really learned what "hard in the mouth" means on a power sharpie that I designed and built. I made the bow too full and did not build in much rocker so than when the boat was loaded so when the stem was below the water the boat would root around a lot when encountering waves of greater than 6 inches in height. I think this is not a problem for flat bottomed boats as long as the bow is kept well clear of the surface of the water. Thus the rule of thumb of length to beam of 4:1 does not seem to apply to OliveOyl. In fact because of the high position of the foot of the stem above the water OliveOyl really sails more like a scow that an sharpie.

Rudder control is good, more positive than the AF3 and tiller force was light at all times.

After a couple of hours I put a reef into the sail and sailed for two more hours. Much less exciting but still very lively. In fact OliveOyl was very tame on all points of sail. Close hauled tacks were made at 110. With the full sail the strain on the rig was considerable. Having in the past broken a mast on the AF3 I was concerned with the greater righting ability of OliveOyl I could be tempted to over stress the rig if I continued to sail without reefing. If I was camp cruising in these conditions or on a bigger lake I would have been sailing reefed. In fact after today I would be sailing reefed to decrease strain on the rig,

I hope this is not too wordy and is useful to you. Thus far I am very happy with the OliveOyl design and would say that it sails more like a big boat where as the AF3 sails more like a dingy.

I saw your article on righting OliveOyl today. I note that you chose not to mention how it would self right when ballasted with a hundred pounds of lead.

Next project is to to trailer my boat 30 minutes north to Lac Poisson Blanc [White Fish Lake] and do some big lake camp cruising.




A real treat for me to get a report like this.

One thing to keep in mind is that the pile of plywood needed to build Olive is actually about twice that needed for AF3. So figure about twice the weight, cost and labor. The AF3 is actually a mod of the old Bolger Jinni I had a lifetime ago. In fact it has the same overall size, beam and length and hull shape, and the exact same main sail. The Jinni was actually lighter and had a mizzen sail to boot and keeping it on its feet was often a challenge. So the AF3 behaviour he mentions at times is totally in line with my Jinni experience. Any boat with a boom three times its beam is bound to have issues in strong winds and Jinni had that habit Herb mentions of the clew dipping into the water in a strong puff and tripping the boat. You can be between a rock and a hard place then...can't let the sail out to spill the gust wind because the sail will boom out and the clew dip into the water, etc...

Well OliveOyl certainly behaved well and is a worthy effort I think. Herb did not camp in it yet but it should be more comfortable than AF3 that way. The cockpit should be a lot more comfortable than AF3's give serious seating. AF3 had none of that which simplified cost and construction and gave a cockpit long enough to lie down in. But the heavier, steadier, roomier and more comfortable Olive is clearly appreciated.

I guess I was thinking out loud when I wrote Herb about how boats like this fitted with a small amount of real ballast should self right if the crew did not misbehave. We've suspected this for a long time because an AF3 floating on its side can be righted apparently with just a push of the hand. I have never really sorted this out in my mind. If you add ballast and the open cockpit (and maybe the cabin) do swamp, then the swamping will be worse by the amount of ballast. You have to rely on the ballast not allowing the swamping in the first place. But there is always a wind out there that will swamp your boat if you sail enough. Even back in the old days with the Bolger Jinni, Phil Bolger suggested I try it with some sand bags on the floor for ballast. They cost about nothing and need no serious added hull structure for the tests and I think he was thinking to just lay them loose on the floor for the testing. But almost no one really does this sort of testing and I didn't either.

Is it clear that the AF3 is a young man's animal and the OliveOyl is for us older types?




Larsboat was built by Lars Hasselgren to replace a Folboat that had finally met its end. Lars wanted capacity for two, plus decking, as with his old boat.

I took Toto and lengthened it with a 30" plug in the middle to gain capacity. But lengthening a hull with a straight plug like this usually improves a boat in almost every way and Larsboat should be faster than Toto in good conditions. In this case the plug meant I didn't have to refigure the shape of the twisted bow panels as I would if I'd lengthened Toto with an overall stretch. (I can figure twisted panels pretty reliably now, but not back when Toto and Larsboat were drawn.)

The decking was quite simple because even the original Toto could take a forward deck of flat sheets with a center peak. I should add that I feel the decking is very optional. This prototype weighs 61 pounds and deleting the deck might cut another 10 pounds or so. The undecked boat also would have a better cartopping shape. I'd keep the stern chamber. It will ease your mind about taking a big wave over the stern.

This would be a preferred project for someonw who intends to do a lot of cruising and camping. In the Toto camping I've done the sleeping room has been OK, but the storage is limited. Larsboat would be better both because of increased capacity and because there is dry storage under the bow deck.


The basic hull is taped seam construction needing four sheets of 1/4" plywood for the decked version and three sheets for the undecked version. No jigs or lofting required. Plans are two blueprints with keyed instructions for $20.

The photo above is of Bob Smithson's Larsboat. He customized the decking a bit. I think he also built the boat of 1/8" ply to save weight. I've forgotten what his boat weighed but he did say it was sufficiently rigid for him.

Bob Hoyle built this one without a deck down in Florida:

Paul Moffitt built this one. You can see this is a much better two person boat than the shorter Toto:

And remember Garth Battista's vertical Larsboat?

And the old outboard motor guru Max Wawrzniak often goes for a paddle in his Larsboat:

Larsboat 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.






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

1jul17, Rowing2, Viola14

15jul17, Rowing3, Vamp

1aug17, RowingSetup, Oracle

15aug17, Taped Seams, Cormorant

1sep17, OliveOly Capsize Test, OliveOly

15sep17, Plywood Butt Joints, Philsboat


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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