Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15dec02) This issue will mess around with motors. In the 1jan03 issue we'll look at things that affect sail rig balance.



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....


... 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.


Craig Garrison built this QT power skiff from the drawings in my book as a senior project. Dave Carnell was his mentor but Dave said the boat was done by the time he showed up.




Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.



Messing With Motors 2002


....I ended the season with this setup on my AF4:

The small whiteish motor is a Sears 5 (Tecumseh) from about 1970. The larger grey motor is a 12hp Sea King (OMC sold by Montgomery Wards) from about 1956.

And I started the 2002 season with the same motors, almost. The Sears was always hard to start but a good runner once started. I dug one level down into it to see what might be causing the starting problem. I found the points and condenser were identical to those Tecumseh parts hanging on the wall at the local True Value store and I treated the motor to a new set, about $5 worth. It seemed at the time as though it was starting better. Right now it isn't, so I guess I didn't fix anything. On start it seems to be starving for fuel. I suppose I need to go through the fuel lines and filter this winter.

The Sea King as you might recall has a built in fuel tank but we converted it as best we could to a standard OMC fuel pump. The built in fuel tank might see a nice idea at first. It holds about 1.5 gallons which might run this motor a bit over an hour. I'll tell you what, folks. These tanks (and the motors in general) are works of art in aluminum. Terrific detail of castings and weldments that has disappeared in today's sea of plastic. I wonder what today's new motors will look like in 50 years? These oldies are not affected much by time (except the plastic ignition coils on OMC's which crack and must be replaced). Well, as mentioned last year the tank set up is marginal since no more than 1 gallon of that fuel is usable. So we mounted a fuel pump to use with a modern remote fuel tank and after some teething troubles it ran well.

Almost! At full throttle the motor would sag after a few seconds and would die if I didn't back off. I suppose it would run at about 80 percent throttle all day. I wrote Wayne Webber at www.brokeboats.com about the problem. He has been at motors like these for decades and his dad for decades more. The next day he wrote back that such a problem was usually a leak in a gasket in the carb bowl and he told me which one. I changed it out and the problem went away. Nothing like talking to the right man!

And that is how the motor boating went until summer.


The motor guru dumped four little Elgin motors at the doorstep saying he wasn't able to sell them and needed room in the shop for more valuable stuff. Three were 2hp from the early and mid 50's and the last a 3.5 from the early 60's. Made by West Bend, the pot and pan company. (West Bend sold their outboard line to Chrysler, who then sold it to Bayliner; Bayliner renamed it Force, and when Brunswick (Mercury) bought Bayliner, and they got stuck with Force as well.) One of the 2's ran and the others did not, he said. He added that he had used the 3.5 a lot until it started making a horrific noise.

Again these are all really well made. Even things like fuel caps and knobs are turned aluminum.

I pieced the fuel hoses together enough to try to start them. As promised one of the 2's started and nothing else. That 2 ran for a minute or so and quit and never started again. Digging inside I found that it used Wico ignition parts and Wico is long out of business. (Some WICO parts are available from Standard Magneto Sales Company, 4119 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL 60651-1897, phone (773) 235-2010.) By swapping and switching ignition parts I got one another 2 and the 3.5 running. Here is the 3.5 pushing my AF4. It ran very nicely then and at the time I was proud to have it.

But as promised, right after this photo was taken the motor slowed and stopped making a horrific noise. Autopsy showed a loose upper bearing, a fatal flaw for an old motor like this.

Back to the 2's. I tried the good 2 on AF4 on a windy day. It did not have enough power to push the boat into the wind in a meaningful way and decided to not use it. Eventually I gave it to Richard Harris for use on his Frolic2 where it seemed to have plenty of oomph to push his boat plus his entire family. Here it is nestled in the nook of his boat:


The guru had also found an early 60's Sea King 15. Sold by Montgomery Wards and made by the Gale division of OMC, up in Galesburg, Illinois. I pass through Galesburg once or twice a year. I'm told thereare blocks of abandoned buildings that had once been the sprawling Gale factory. Once independent, by the 50's Gale became part of OMC and made parts for all the OMC motors, Johnson and Evinrude, plus drive parts. They also assembled their own engines that were sold under many names by vendors like Wards. But boating changed and eventually the production dropped or moved and Galesburg took a big hit, I'm told, both in the pocketbook and also in the leaving of talented craftsmen. A common story in this state, I'm afraid. But if you are up in Galesburg reading this, take pride in such great products that after 40 and 50 years are still hanging in there, quality and performance obvious.

This SeaKing15 is a modern motor in that it has a full cowling and drive isolation that makes it very quiet. It ran right from the first pull. It's only problem seems to be leaky seals in the prop shaft (I'm guessing here) such that water gets into the lower unit. This one froze once upon a time and cracked the casting below the prop. The crack was patched with epoxy. But I ran it all summer. It replaced the SeaKing12 in general use since it is quieter and more civilized in general and less likely to offend my wife. The extra power is not a factor if I am boating solo but would allow you to get another adult on board with no loss in performance. Fuel consumption was less than 1.5 gph at say 70% cruise.

I did check the lower unit for water after a month of summer boating and found none. But when I changed the lower gear lube before the first freeze here there was A LOT of water in there and I'm sure it would have broken a casting down there if it had frozen. So the routine will be that this will be a summer engine with frequent changes of gear lube.


They have a meeting here of the Antique Outboard Motor Club every August and if you have such a thing nearby you should go. Collectors drive across the country with trailers full of old motors. If you watch Antiques Roadshow you know that rare things are valuable and common things are not. Wonderful! The last thing the boater wants is a rare motor. The first thing he wants is a good common motor. So as the antiquers argue and bid up the rarities the good common motors they brought can go for a song. They don't want to take them home and haul them down the cellar stairs again. Such was the case at the August meeting where there were more sellers than buyers.

So I got this Goodyear 12 for $50.

It had been repainted the wrong color by someone, a double insult to a collector. Does it look familar? It is the exact same engine (also made in Galesburg) as the SeaKing12! Yes the cowling "appliques" are different but I noticed that even they could be swapped from motor to motor since each cowling had a full set of mounting holes. Thus I could put the SeaKing rocket nozzles on the Goodyear if I cared to. I imagine the Galesburg people had a building full of these 12's 45 years ago and depending on who ordered more they would grab a few, paint them the proper color for that customer and install the proper trim and then out the door.

At the meet we took off the cowling (lots of screws) and checked the coils through a hole in the flywheel to make sure they weren't cracked. They were fine. Remove the plugs and spin the motor and look for a spark across the gaps and there it was. So the ignition was working. The seller wanted $80 but it was getting late and he didn't want to haul it down the cellar stairs ever again. We found a bulge in the casting below the prop suggesting it had frozen water seepage once. We argued it down to $50.

NO, it didn't run when I got it home. This one had already been converted to a fuel pump by someone who knew the traps. Recoil starter was cranky but I knew that from the trying it at the meet. Pulled on it for an hour or two with no luck even after injecting fuel right into the cylinders! All this time the spark was checking OK. One last try. The guru had said the top wire always goes to the top plug but maybe the guy who painted it the wrong color didn't know that. Swapped the plug wires and it fired right up. Then it quit in a howl of noise as the recoil started disassmbled itself in a half second inside the cowling. Spent the next day reinventing the recoil starter.

Then off to the lake for a trial. More recoil starter problems. These oldies used fabric covered metal cables instead of ropes, I'm told because synthetic ropes were not available and natural ropes couldn't take it. The cable was very hard to seat properly into the handle, at least for me. So after a pull or two the handle would come off in my hand! I replaced the cable with a nylon rope and have used the motor since with no problems.

Uses maybe 1.3 gph at about 70% cruise. Noisier than the 15 but usually a pleasant throaty rumble.

Towards the end of the season I had a chance to try it with a gps and it pushes the AF4 at 16mph at full throttle. When Af4 was new it went 17 mph with my old Johnson10 but now it has a bimini to slow it down plus about 100 pounds of extra gear. So that makes sense to me. Remember, it takes about one hp to plane 50 pounds.


After I wore myself out trying to get the Sears5 started I took a hard look at my first ever motor, the SeaKing3.5 (early 70's made by Clinton). Here is sits beside the Goodyear12:

It starts on the second or third pull and has plenty of power to push the AF4 at 6mph at maybe 2/3 throttle. Doesn't get the fuel economy of the Sears5 but since these little ones are supposed to be emergency power, sure starting counts for a lot. I tried to keep that sheet aluminum cowling quiet with rubber bumpers stuck everywhere, with only mild success. Also gave it new points and condensor which are identical to those of the Sears' Tecumseh power head. Again, off the shelf at the True Value store.

Finally I had to deal with the fuel connector problem that almost every motor like this will face. The O ring in the connector fails after 30 years and leaks. I was once told that the connector can be purchased new but I have never seen one for sale - it is unlike any standard outboard fitting sold today. This connector slips over a 1/8" pipe that exits the handle where the fuel pump is and snaps in place. To replace this I slipped a fuel hose over that pipe and ran that to a standard OMC connector fitting which I screwed to the motor's handle. So now I can use the same tanks that feed my larger OMC motors. I suppose the hitch was that the OMC fitting is something like 1/4" pipe so some forcing and stretching and cursing was in order. But it seems to all work fine now.

It's a bit of a surprise to me that the original water pump (cools the exhaust, not the air cooled Clinton power head) is still functioning. Can't get a new one but when this one fails you can rig a motor like this very well with a copper tube pickup behind the prop that will feed water up into the engine anytime your boat goes over 3 mph or so. Never a problem with a direct drive motor like this. I converted the Sears5 over last year with success and the Elgins were piped that way at the factory.


The Johnson 5.5 that thew a rod last year was repaired and runs fine. I replaced all the fuel hoses since I had a feeling that some of the erratic running it experienced might be caused by air ingestion into the fuel lines at fittings. It ran quite well this year although it did not get the workout of past years. This year it gravitated to the stern of my Birdwatcher and that boat became something of a motor sailer. I knew from the past that Birdwatcher will go about 6 mph with maybe 3 hp and will not go faster no matter what - it just digs itself deeper into the water. So running this 5.5 at half throttle does the job and is very quiet at that speed.


I'll look at some factors that affect sail rig balance.



af4 lines


AF4 is a simple low powered cuddy cruiser intended for protected waters. Kilburn Adams of St. Louis brought a boat similar in spirit to AF4 to our Midwest Messabouts and it was easy to see what a good idea this is. Kiburn's boat was a modified Sturdee Amesbury power dory with a small cuddy added and a new 4 stroke Yamaha 10. He thought the empty boat weighed about 600 pounds ready to go. It planed quite well with two men on board at about 13 knots. He made a 60 mile trip on the Mississippi (above the Alton dam where the current is small) burning about 4 gallons of fuel. It's quiet and cheap to operate. It's a good idea now that smaller 4 stroke motors are more common.

Here is an AF4 by Barry Targan. I think he is using a new 8 hp 4 cycle.

AF4 is supposed to do about the same job. Its simple hull shape won't handle rough going like the dory, but it's very easy to build and roomier. This boat has an open bow well for anchors and junk. The cabin is 8' long and 3' deep and 4' wide for minimal camping. It should be comfy for one and snug for two. it has a slot top to allow stand up boating in good weather. You cover it with a snap on fabric piece in the rain and cold. The cockpit is a full 6' long and 4' wide and totally open. You could lounge there too with a folding chaise. Aft of the cockpit is a draining motor well which will take the standard 6 gallon fuel tank and then some.

For power I used to say 10 horsepower maximum but now I would say 15. My boat has gained gear and weight over the past three years and is more comfortable with the extra power. A light AF4 planes with an old Sears 7-1/2 horse (single cylinder, air cooled, for $50 at a yard sale) as you can see here:

Here is John Bell & co. in his AF4. I think John is using a 20 hp four stroke having tested the boat first with 25 hp and found it too much.

Here is one by Rhett Davis awaiting its final gear.

And here is another by the motor guru Max W riding with the Duckworks guru Chuck L showing why there slot top cabins are so nice,

AF4 uses the simplest nail and glue construction. It takes five sheets of 1/4" plywood and four sheets of 1/2" plywood.

There is also a shorter 15' version called AF4Breve, the prototype shown here built by Bruce Given.

Plans for either AF4 or AF4Breve are $30.


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:

An Australian builder has started a Dorado which is a power version of Frolic2. At the point of looking like a boat....

The Australian Twang builder looks about done to me:

The Oracle builder in St. Louis has his hull basically done except for finish, hard to do in the winter.





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

Hullforms Download (archived copy)

Plyboats Demo Download (archived copy)

Brokeboats (archived copy)

Brian builds Roar2 (archived copy)

Herb builds AF3 (archived copy)

Herb builds RB42 (archived copy)

Barry Builds Toto

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