Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15SEP98) This issue will report on some capsize testing done by Herb McLeod with his AF3. Next time, about 1October, we'll likely look at some methods for a swimmer to reboard his boat.

Chuck Leinweber puts out a very nice magazine that features the adventures of homemade boats at Duckworks Magazine . Lots and lots of photos. Take a look.

MIDWEST MESSABOUT ALERT...The 7th annual Lake Monroe Messabout will take place at Lake Monroe, south of Bloomington, Indiana on September 18, 19 and 20. We'll be at the Paynetown Recreation Area. Bob Bringle is in charge at rbringle@iupui.edu.







Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254
Send $1 for info on 20 boats.




Herb McLeod has been sending me some great scans and also some results of capsizing his AF3, both intentional and unintentional. Early this summer he wrote:

"Hi Jim:

I now have 14 days of sailing in on the AF3. Alas, no pictures yet of it sailing on the water for the same reason as ever, no one else around to take a picture. Most days I am the only boat on the lake. Had one sail where we traveled 20 miles in one day. We did a 6.5 mile section that day in 1 hour 10 minutes with the small sail (69 square feet) on a beam to broad reach (lots of wind). Also managed to turn the AF3 on its side that same day. The AF3 floated well was easily uprighted, boarded and bailed out. Everything in the cuddy stayed dry and we managed to not loose any of our gear. But that is not what I am writing about....."

That whetted my appetite and I emailed for more info about the capsize.

"I'd like to hear a bit more about the AF3 capsize. In particular: About what angle did it go over?"

"I do not know because we were not sailing it at the time. We were both standing on the cuddy deck fiddeling with the sail in a good blow and it went over real fast. We have regularly sailed the hull at up to 20 degrees of heel and it does not feel unstable although I like it best at 10 degrees of heal. I have an inclinometer on the boat(overkill I know) so I know that the angle of heel is a real measurement not a guess. When sailing I had one puff that almost caused a knockdown because I had accidently cleated the main sheet. What happened is he boat healed over dramatically and the sail depowered enough that equilibrium was reached and I was able to uncleat the sheet in time to prevent a capsize. Unfortuantly I did not look at the inclinometer, but I was busy at the time.

" How did you right the boat? (Did you use the leeboard?)"

"Gord the fellow I was sailing with uprighted the boat while I swam off after our cooler that was quickly blowing away. The water was shallow so he was standing on the bottom. His comment after was that he was amazed at how easily the boat came back up. The second set of plans for the AF3 that I purchased was for Gord as after that experience he was convinced that he wanted to build himself an AF3 this winter. We will see..."

"How did you reboard the boat?"

"I climbed on from the stern. I have a small step on the stern that also doubles as a support for my mast cradle. I put my hands on the stern deck and placed my foot on the step and climbed on board. I must take a photo of this step and send it to you. With the step it was easy to reboard and I could walk around in the cockpit with the water in it and bail it out. Gord then reboarded over the side, which was much more difficult and his choice not mine."

"What I will have to do the next time I am out sailing will be to dump the boat in deep water while watching the inclinometer and get you an answer. The water should be warm this week as it is again over 30C today. Unreal for us as it is usually cool, no one has air conditioning here. We were at a folk festival today but came home as it was too hot.

At summer's end he wrote:

"Hello Jim:

I was glad that I caught you in the other night. It was good to talk to you after so many emails.

I did get out "sailing" this Sunday. I rolled the AF3 solo both ways in deep water. The AF3 seemed stable to well over 30 degrees and I had the distinct feeling that I could have pushed it back upright until the point was reached that the water started to come over the combing of the cockpit. I had my large sail on the boat at the time of the test (103 square feet, 24-foot mast). Winds were almost non-existent. When it was rolled with the leeboard down in the water righting the boat was an easy task as all I had to do was put light pressure on the board. When the leeboard was up out of the water I "walked" with my hands along the chine log (it makes a good grip) to the leeboard and then pulled on the board to pop the boat upright. The comment from the yacht club spectators on the dock was that it came up too easy. They wanted to see me struggle for a while. When righted the boat had 6" on water in the cockpit against the center bulkhead. I pulled myself on board via the stern. I found it easiest to board directly in the middle of the stern because the boat would tend to wallow with the water in the cockpit if I was off to one side or the other. I found turning the rudder 90 degrees and using it as a hand hold helped to reboard. For those with limited arm strength a step on the rudder or a rope step on the stern near the midline would be a great help for reboarding. My son was taking photos I hope some of them turned out. Also asked another boat to take a few photos while sailing maybe we will get you a picture of the AF3 sailing.

I am now off for a week to Jasper Alberta with my son for some hiking and canoeing.



Herb McLeod seems to be the most energetic and organized person I've met.

The scenery of his sailing lake is certainly picture book beautiful. He has warned me that the mosquitoes don't show in the photos.

The capsize with two men on the cuddy deck is no surprize. The boat was not designed for that. In fact the idea behind the slot top cabin is to do all sail handling from inside the slot. You can do that if the snotter attachment is kept within reach of a person with his feet on the boat's bottom. I suspect the high snotter attachment Herb is using is to gain more sail efficiciency. That is true enough but after having snotter tackles fail in one way or another I learned to keep the them well within reach.

Actually the AF3 capsize seems very similar to my experiences with capsizing my old Jinni. Both boats capsize well before they take water over the side. Jinni had less flotation and I think took on more water. I was able to reboard Jinni over the side. It had lower sides and there seemed to be a trick to rolling over the side just as the boat was rolling upright. Then I had to be very careful to not recapsize the boat because of the sloshing cockpit water. And like AF3, Jinni couldn't quite roll upright until I put some weight on the leeboard. The Jinni had three skid/stiffeners on its bottom which I used as a toehold to regain the capsized boat in the same way that Herb used the AF3 external chines as a finger hold. I may add some similar skids to the AF3 drawings.

Herb looks to have gone through all his tests without disturbing any gear because he had it well stowed. Very important. But a tight well secured fabric cover of the cabin slot would be a good idea in rough going. It should help keep a big wave from sloshing into the cabin and upsetting your day. You must remember that in the conditions that might cause a real capsize things will be a lot more trying.


We'll look at ways of reboarding a capsized boat.




Someday I may get to put my full catalog on the net. For now I'll put one design in each issue.


If you like to spend time looking at drawings of small boats one of the best books to invest in is Howard Chapelle's AMERICAN SMALL SAILING CRAFT. If you turn to page 65 you will see a drawing of the "Old garvey box, substitute for a sneakbox". The sneakbox itself is a fairly refined shape to be seen on page 313. They were small handy row/sail boats used by sportsmen around the Chesepeake a century ago but they live on in boats like the Sunfish that are very similar in size and style. Chapelle's old garvey box is the same size and style but with a simple flat bottomed cross planked hull instead of the round bilged hull of a real sneakbox.

You can learn a lot more about the sneakbox on the internet. Start at the Eldritch Press shown in my links. There is a lot of stuff at Eldritch, mostly "literature". But for some good reason there is also a section on classic small boat books including Nathanial Bishop's FOUR MONTHS IN A SNEAKBOX, complete with all maps and drawings which include details of a 1870's sneakbox. Bishop took his sneakbox from Pittsburg down the Ohio to the Mississippi to the Gulf Coast to Florida. He camped almost every night. All was done with oars, no sail rig was taken. Quite a journey! And quite interesting to historians and anyone who lives near those waters (like me). Anyway, Al Tilley is the one who told me about Eldritch and who built the first Sneakerbox.

Here is the writeup about Sneakerbox in the current catalog:

Here is a new design based on a traditional boat, Chapelle's "garvey box". She's the same size and layout as the original garvey box. The prototype was built by Al Tilley of Montrose, Pa.

I'm sure she's lighter than the old planked garveys, maybe half the weight because of the modern plywood box construction. Still, she's too heavy for casual cartopping (and not well shaped for it either) because of the extra weight of the deck. There's nothing to be done about it except to go to an open top design like Piccup Squared. But the old sneakbox boats were always decked.

I put a lateen sail on Sneakerbox and didn't copy the original boomless sprit rig. The boomless rig would stow better but the lateen would easily outsail it and be much more likely to be rigged properly. What!! No pivoting leeboard?? This hull is too shallow to make one work well. I kept the traditional daggerboard. (Al has not built the sail rig yet, using the boat for recreational rowing.)

Six sheets of plywood make Sneakerbox. The boat has taped seam chines. No jigs or lofting required.

Plans are three blueprints with complete instructions for $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. (If you order a catalog from an internet page you might state that in your letter so I can get an idea of how effective this medium is.) Payment must be in US funds. The banks here won't accept anything else. (I've got a little stash of foreign currancy that I can admire but not spend.) I'm way too small for credit cards.

Usually when a design from the Catalog of Prototypes starts getting built I pull it and replace it with another prototype. So that boat goes into limbo until the builder finishes and sends a test report and a photo.

Here are the prototypes abuilding that I know of:

Sportdory: Word from Dave Burdecki in California was that he had his completed but no word of the launching. You can check out John Bell's Sportdory progress by clicking here .

Skat: the prototype Skat builder is Roger Palaski. Up until now he was a mystery man know to me only as "Roger", his Skat plans bought for him by someone else. Then I find out he has his own web page with the Skat construction photos on it! Skat is a small somewhat traditional 12' cat boat with a gaff rig. Even has a centerboard, the only boat I've ever designed with one! See Roger's progress by clicking here.

Nothing new on the Texas IMB. Click here to visit Tim Webber's page and see some photos of the IMB as of a few weeks ago. Then poke around Tim's web page a bit.

Fatcat2: There is an old timer (80 years +) in Minnisota who has completed the hull of a Fatcat2. Fatcat2 is a simple 15' x 6' catboat, gaff rigged and multichined. I think the sail rig will be done this coming winter.




Mother of All Boat Links

Cheap Pages

Eldritch Press

Messing About In Boats

Shantyboats (archived copy)

Backyard Boats

The Boatbuilding Community

Kilburn's Sturdee Dory

Bruce Builds Roar

Dave Carnell

Herb builds AF3 (archived copy)

Hullforms Download (archived copy)

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