Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15May00) This issue discusses "messabouts". Next issue, 1Jun00, will rerun a most important issue about Sail Area Math.

The 11th annual Midwest Homebuilt Boat Messabout will take place on June 10 and 11 at the Gun Creek Recreation Area at Rend Lake in Southern Illinois. Take exit 77W off I-57, head towards the golf course and you will see the signs. Lots of people arrive on Friday and leave early on Sunday. The camping fee is $10 which includes the ramp fee at this Corps of Engineers facility. There is no schedule of events. We have a pitch in dinner on Saturday evening.

IMB Left:

Jerry Scott's IMB


Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.



Well, this goes back a ways. In 1990 Bob Archibald and I decided to try having a "messabout" here in Illinois. The great paper magazine Messing About In Boats has always shown the small get togethers around the country and that gave us the idea. Nothing fancy. Nothing like the big boat shows. Nothing commercial. Bernie Wolfard was running Common Sense Designs back then and published a monthly newsletter which included, once each year, a list of folks who get the newsletter. Bob used the list to mail invitations to people in all the neighboring states. I had been going to Rend Lake in Southern Illinois for several years by then and knew it would be the best location around for the meet. There were lots and lots of unknowns but Bob and I figured if only the two of us showed up it would be a success.

That first meet was indeed a success, one of the largest turnouts that we ever had, maybe 50 people and 20 boats. The weather as I recall now was about perfect and folks from Oklahoma to Michigan attended. It was a great start. We've had ten messabouts at Rend Lake and the Indiana crowd has joined in with another nine or so at Lake Monroe south of Bloomington, Indiana.

I'm going to present here some thoughts about how things have developed. Maybe you might think about putting on a messabout in your area.



Bob's idea about using Bernie's mailing list was an excellent start. But things have changed since then and that list is gone. What I have done since is to send notices to folks who have attended in recent years and to go through my list of customers for the local states. Right now I send out about 50 notices through the mail. I don't think it is fair to send notices far and wide since you have no control over the turnout or the weather. It has happened that folks have driven 15 hours to a meet that got washed out. Now I include notice on this internet web site but it has not proven to be as successful as the old fashioned mailed notice.

(The mailing of the notices is really the only expense involved with organizing the messabout, less than $20.)

Another pretty valuable source of names is to meet people while boating , telling them about the meet, and remembering to get them on the mailing list.

The notices don't have to be great literature, but they must include where and when. I try to give complete directions to the place, an idea of when most boaters will be there, and an idea of the site arrangements.



I think the approach to take is to have a somewhat private meeting of guys with homemade boats. It's not really a public showing. So a somewhat secluded place is best. Most of the homebuilt boats will be slower low pressure craft, they don't mix well with the usual high powered commercial boats.

Rend Lake where I have the June meet is away from the big cities and usually only gets the wild noisy crowd on Sunday afternoons (after church?) and by then the wise messabouters have gone home. I knew the pattern at Rend Lake because I had been there many times. But once we had the meet at Lake Shelbyville which is closer to the Indiana crowd that was coming to the meet. I scoped Lake Shelbyville out on a weekday in March and it looked then like a really great site for the meet. But when we had the meet on a June weekend I found Lake Shelbyville was a meeting ground for all the ski boats from Chicago to Indianapolis. And the cove where our meet was held was the preferred ski cove! So back to Rend Lake.

Rend Lake also has the nice combination of a sheltered cove at the launch ramp that is large enough to hold all of us if the conditions on the main lake are too rough. That has happened. And the cove is a good hidey hole for folks who want to sleep in their boats. The main "bowl" of Rend Lake is about 3 miles square, plenty large for anyone who wants to "cruise" for a day. So it's a good combination. There are plenty of mud banks to beach and yak, but there lies one of the problems with Rend Lake. The beaches are accessable only by boat. When the weather is good all the boats will launch and head out of the cove to the open water and from time to time beach and yak. No one is left at the launch ramp or the camp ground. It happens all the time that someone drives a ways to see the meet and finds no trace of anyone because they are all out boating! The main lake can't be seen from the launch ramp.

The set up at Lake Monroe in Indiana is different but equally as nice. They have there a grand gravel bank right at the camp ground that no one can miss. Most guys just back down the bank and launch their boats. Everything is in plain sight.



This has proven to be interesting. The Rend Lake meet has always been in the middle of June and it has come to pass that it will always and forever be on the weekend before Father's Day. It turns out that in Southern Illinois that is about the earliest that you can swim with any comfort due to water temperature. It is often the first time the guys have had their boats out, sort of the beginning of the boating season.

The Indiana meet is usually the third weekend in September. About the last week when swimming might be possible (actually it's pretty cold by then). It is often the end of the boating season for lots of folks.

Why not in between, in the good old summer time? We've never tried it. I'm told Lake Monroe is a total zoo during the summer. Rend Lake isn't but it gets awful hot.

I'm pretty sure that using the messabouts like bookends to the boat season is the right thing to do for us. I think you can overdo it by having too many meets, eventually the turnout will get quite small. But some of our more avid boaters travel afar to other meets, Cedar Key being the most popular.


Because of the distances some folks drive, a one day messabout is pretty much out of the question here. So we've always had them at places with camping.


I've also found this to be interesting. No one has ever griped about camping at these messabouts and both are grounds without "family facilities" (which gives us even more privacy). The Rend Lake sites got electricity only last year and still no showers. The Lake Monroe site is still non electric with no showers. Pit toilets all around. And yet everyone comes prepared with their old camping gear, ready for anything. It's all tents, kerosene lanterns, propane stoves. Even John McDaniel scoured Indiana for a hand cranked ice cream making machine that gets passed around the camp fire from hand to hand until the delicacy is ready. It's considered an honor to turn the crank for a while! Anyway, I decided the man who wants to build his own boat also has a full set of "roughing it" gear and I figured out why. Everyone here dreams of "escaping" someday and knows full well he's not going to do it by flying his Learjet from one grand hotel to the next. So we practice our cheap escape at these messabouts!



It took a few years before the eating thing got settled. At first we all had our own grub and retired each to his camp for a private meal. But the Indiana messabout leaders soon instructed me in the use of "pot luck" dinner technology. There they are so sophisticated as to tie the pot you bring to your last initial, but here in Illinois we are backward and still rely on true pot luck. Also in Illinois we have the pot luck only on Saturday night, while in Indiana the pot luck thing seems to include nearly every meal. The Indiana breakfast menu has heaps of everything your doctor told you not to eat. Wonderful! Why bother with boating?! One Saturday in Indiana we had an all day cold rain. No problem! We took over a covered pavilian and had an all day feast! Someone showed us how to bake peach cake in a barbacue pit.

So if you have a messabout have a pot luck meal. It's great fun and I want to thank all the folks who have brought real and grand food and rescued us from stealing away by ourselves to gulp a hot dog.


All problems are solved here. Usually glue is discussed for several hours with the conclusion that they all work and that none work. Then it goes on and on. All this goes with home made ice cream and coffee.



Boats and boaters at a messabout vary quite a bit in abilities. That is why it is important to have a location that accommodates both large and small boats, and boaters of all levels of experience. So the quite launch cove at Rend Lake will suite any boat in any weather since it is so protected, and yet larger boats are just 1/8 mile from four miles of open water.

It's fairly common for brand new boats (and boaters) to get wet for the first time at a messabout. Mistakes will be made and things won't always work quite right but everyone there is a fresh memory away from being in the same situation. Great satisfaction comes from squaring away a new boat and boater. We have no competative events at these meets and never will. So if you have a new boat and have never sailed or rowed or paddled, bring yourself and boat along and learn how to do it.

If you don't have a boat, there is no problem. These messabouts are a great way to get introduced to homebuilt boats and to see and try out first hand different designs. I personally like to get a ride in any new boat that shows up. I've thought that I may have tried out more Bolger designs than Bolger himself.


An organizer can never really tell who is going to show up with what boat, or predict what the weather is going to do. So I suppose the pot luck principle one again applies to trying out a boat.


Can't control that weather either. One advantage of the weekend format is that we have always had at least a short spell of good boating weather at each meet. A few hours is enough. Even though our meets in theory are Saturday and Sunday affairs, lots of folks arrive on Friday and almost everyone is gone by Sunday afternoon. So in effect there are almost three days of possible boating. There have been times when someone arrived on Sunday afternoon to see a messabout only to find a last few hangerson.

As an organizer it is important to be able to blame the weather on someone else. So I always put Bob Archibald in charge of the weather even though he now lives in Florida.



I'll get you up to speed with Sail Area Math.




Bruce was looking for a large powered canoe but couldn't find one for sale. He said they still make them by hand in Maine but he was in California and you couldn't expect to buy one anyway unless you showed up with money in hand on the day the builder happened to finish one. So he wondered if the row/sail skiff Woobo couldn't be redone as a long lean powerboat. It's not the first time that has been mentioned. Ray Laviolette had the first plumb bow Roar, predecessor to Woobo, built up in Michigan for rowing and both he and his builder thought the shape could be modified for low power.

Brucesboat followed pretty quickly from that. I kept the plumb bow, easy to build and lots of folks like its looks. The multichine shape is very good in rought water. it's not as stable as a flattie of course but sometimes I think it is safer in that you must walk on the center of the boat because you can;t step on the slanted bilge panels. Your weight is always close to centerline where it should be. I made the main cross section 6" wider than Woobo and a bit deeper. From the center aft the bottom is straight and flat. The sides could be that way too, but I pinch them in a little and sweep the sheer up in the stern a bit for looks. I gave it a skid/stiffener on centerline so she would stay put on the water. These multichine boats have little lateral resistance on their own and sometimes would just as soon go sideways as forwards.

I'm a big chicken on power and would keep this one at 10hp max. I think the main problem will simply be the weight of the motor, fuel and skipper in the stern. I've never designed a downward hook into the bottom to cope with bow wanting to go skyward, although some swear by that hook. The boat could be trimmed with wedges glued to the bottom stern if needed.

I kept Woobo's light taped seam construction and the plywood bill looks like three sheets of 1/4" and four sheets of 3/8". That's about 250 pounds of plywood and I would expect the finished boat to weigh about that much. The bow is boxed in with a storge/buoyancy chamber, the middle has a stout boxed thwart, and the stern is boxed in with a draining motor well. There are actually two places in the boat long and wide enough to lie down in. It might be a reasonable expedition boat given a small motor that burns little fuel and a canoeist skipper who is used to roughing it.


Prototype plans for Brucesboat 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.

Here are the prototypes abuilding that I know of:

Jonsboat: Jonsboats by Greg Rinaca and Chuck Leinweber showed up at the Lake Conroe, Texas, messabout last month. Here is Greg's with a trolling motor. Full report when Greg gets his new outboard.

Jonsboat< WIDTH="399" HEIGHT="268">

We also have the start of a Jon Jr, a 12' x 3' personal sized jonboat, down in Texas. Here is the latest photo with the bottom going on.

jon jr.

IMB: Also at the lake Conroe messabout Jerry Scott's prototype IMB get into the water. Again, a full report when I receive one.


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! Here is a construction photo from last summer.

Paquet's Mayfly12

Robote: Robote is supposed to be a fast somewhat extreme rowing boat based on my old WeeVee design, thus it has a deep V bottom but is stretched out to 14' long with a very pointy bow. It was drawn as a custom job but if it works out I'll put it in the catalog. The boat is now complete and launched but waiting for final photos and test results.




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

Rich builds AF2

Herb builds AF3 (archived copy)

JB Builds Sportdory

Hullforms Download (archived copy)

Plyboats Demo Download (archived copy)

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