Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15Sep99) This issue is a rerun of last year's issue showing Herb McLeod's capsize tests of his AF3. Next issue, 1Oct99, will continue the topic with an essay about emergency flotation.


The 8th annual Lake Monroe Messabout will take place on September 24, 25, and 26 at the Paynetown State Recreation Area on Lake Monroe, about 10 miles south of Bloomington, Indiana. There is no schedule of events. Typically, people arrive on Friday evening or Saturday morning. The Messabout begins to dissolve Sunday afternoon. I hope to see you there but I'm not in charge of this one. Bob Bringle is at rbringle@iupui.edu.


Craig O'Donnell will be hosting his Sassafras Messabout at Betterton, Md, on September 18 and 19. Contact Craig at dadadata@friend.ly.net. (Craig told me this one is actually anti-organized.)





Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.

AF3 Capsize Tests


This is a rerun of last year's 15sep issue which featured a capsize test done by Herb McLeod on his then new AF3. I want to keep this one up front because it demonstrates what you need to do when you capsize a sailboat which is not self righting, but rather is self rescuing. That is you can get it back upright and going again if you are properly prepared and if the boat, like AF3, has ample built in flotation or airboxes to keep it floating high on its side as you recover. A few things I'd like to point out. 1) Herb's tests were done in very benign conditions and if you capsize in really bad conditions recovery could be a lot more difficult or impossible. 2) If you tinker with a design such that you remove flotation or airboxes or enlarge hatches or move them off centerline, etc., the recovery system may not work and the boat may swamp to the point where you cannot recover. 3) If you have a design with no flotation or airboxes at all, such as most any traditional open boat, recovery is about impossible because the boat will swamp completely and be unstable even if it doesn't sink.

And now on to our story...


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....."

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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..."

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"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. Iput 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."

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"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.


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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.


I'll talk about emergency flotation placement.



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Here is another rerun, my Piccup Pram design. It was my first design to get built and I still have and use the original. It's had lots of sail rigs but the hull is totally unchanged over ten years. Sometimes I think I had beginner's luck with Piccup. Here is the write up about Piccup in my paper catalog:

Piccup Pram, the first of my designs to be built, was originally to be the best boat I could slide into the bed of my piccup truck. Now I cartop her exclusively.

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When I drew Piccup I had one eye on a Bolger Nymph and the other on a Herreshoff Marco Polo tender. For her size and weight she is very roomy and able to take rough going. The flat pram bow provides capacity equal to a pointy bow hull two or three feet longer. Her multichine shape gives soft shoulders which prevent waves from rolling her as they would a flattie.

Her balanced lug sail, now enlarged to 68 square feet, stows rolled up in the cockpit while her pivoting leeboard and kickup rudder raise instantly for rowing. These lug rigs can be built effectively from ordinary materials including discount store polytarps. Piccup will row 7 miles in two hours in calm conditions and will rig for sail in a couple of minutes if the wind pipes up.

Piccup has a flat bottom panel that keeps draft to 6" with two adults aboard, allows level beaching, and is big enough for a sleep spot. I've camped in Piccup many times. The ends have buoyancy/storage chambers of about 6 cubic feet each - enough for two or three days' supplies for someone used to roughing it. I don't take a rain tarp, being careful to camp on a no-rain forecast. The lug sail can be rigged as a rain fly to a certain extent. A bug net is mandatory.

Construction is taped seam 1/4" plywood, 5 sheets required. All parts are cut to the shapes shown on the drawings and pulled together with twisted wire loops. No jigs or lofting are required. Gaps and bevels are of no consequence. Seams are filled with putty and the wire twists are snipped off. Then the seams are locked together with fiberglass strips set in epoxy.

Plans for Piccup 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.

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

Here are the prototypes abuilding that I know of:

Jonsboat: I suspect a few of these have been built but I've never gotten a report. Just got word of at least one more going together and hopefully we'll get a photo and a report.

RB42: This is an 18' rowboat meant for two. Herb McLeod up in Edmonton has it completed. Imagine the Oracle shown in the 1may99 issue stretched to 18' and you have it. Here is a photo of its first time out. In a few issues we'll have a full report. RB42 plans are $20 if you are interested. Six sheets of 1/4" plywood. Herb has completed his testing and tinkering and I'll write this one up as a "done" design next issue.

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Mayfly12: A Mayfly12 is going together up in Minnesota. The decks are on and he's into the sailing bits. By the way, the sailing bits on almost any sailboat large or small consume about half of the effort in labor and materials. Just when you thought you were about finished!

AF4B: A builder in Virginia is building AF4Breve, a 15.5' version of the 18' AF4. I tried to talk him into building the 18' version but he had two very good reasons to go shorter - a short trailer on hand and insufficient building space for the larger boat. The AF4B is essentially a "scrunched" version of AF4 but comes from a whole new set of drawings.




Mother of All Boat Links

Cheap Pages

Messing About In Boats

Duckworks Magazine

Backyard Boats

The Boatbuilding Community

Kilburn's Sturdee Dory

Bruce Builds Roar

Dave Carnell

Herb builds AF3 (archived copy)

JB Builds Sportdory

Hullforms Download (archived copy)

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