Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

The 15jul02 issue will show some action at the 2002 Midwest Messabout. The 1aug02 issue will present an article about Piccup Pram accessories.


... 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. The prices there are $6 more than ordering directly from me by mail in order to pay Duckworks and credit charges. The on line catalog has more plans offered, about 65, than what I can put in my paper catalog and the descriptions can be more complete and can have color photos.


Looking for a beach at Rend Lake.




Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.



2002 Midwest Messabout

We had our thirteenth annual Midwest Homebuilt Boat Messabout at Rend Lake last month. This messabout has always been on the weekend before Father's Day and has always been at Rend Lake in Southern Illinois (except once it was held at Lake Shelbyville farther north). Turnout is usually between ten and twenty boats. We had good weather for the second year in a row. But again light winds so the sailing was done in close with nobody sailing out of sight.

This year we've had a wet Spring and Rend Lake was fat with water to the point where beaching a boat was difficult. In our normal spot near campsite 55 the water was up to the riprap with no sand beaches in sight. We piled the boats up on the rocks. But with no wind there was no wave action to bang them around.

I trailered down on Friday with Max Wawrzyniak. I had my AF4 (forgot to get a picture of my own boat) and Max had a spanking new AF3.

He has a little 2 hp Neptune on the stern. The sail is polytarp from one of David Grey's kits. The tiller is extra long to get the driver to sit forward on a board that spans the front of the cockpit. This boat also has a leeboard on each side. Since this boat is local to me I hope to get some experimenting done with it and demonstrate that only one leeboard is needed!

Max and I camped on the water both nights. With no beaches open due to the flooded lake, I tied up to a tree sticking out of the water and Max anchored in a cove. Friday night was very busy with night fishermen and Max took the brunt of it since he was in the middle of the cove. I suppose a different fisherman trolled through the cove every half hour and each checked Max over with a spotlight. Oh well!

And Saturday morning brought a bass tournament at dawn with bullhorns, fifty bassboats milling about and then shooting through the cove like rockets every few seconds until they were all gone. This cove used to be "no wake" but a few years ago the sign disappeared and now even the fishermen are blasting through at full throttle. It's only a matter of time before someone gets killed. I suppose I should write to the Corps of Engineers about the situation. They must know about it. Writing won't do any good except to position myself for an "I told you so" . Oh well!

So we got up at dawn on Saturday. But we weren't roughing it as much as you think. We motored to the ramp after the bassboats had left, got into my truck and drove to the nearest eating spot for a big greasy breakfast. Then back to the campground to see what was happening.

Ray Macke had arrived with is modified Glen L skiff. The lake was like glass and he was anxious to get out there and make some timed runs away from the river currents he usually deals with. The boat was flawless, unlike anything I've ever built. I think it was a 16' design stretched to 18'. Power is a 50hp Honda four cycle, I think.

While I'm on the subject of perfect power boats I might as well talk about Kilburn Adams and his Skiff America. Kilburn was there with his buddy. This photo was taken by Bill Dulin who also brought his Skiff America. I don't have a photo of Bill's boat handy but can assure you it looks exactly like Kilburn's. These guys ran around the smooth lake all weekend. They have 25 hp four cycle Yamahas, I think. I don't know if there was any racing between the Skiff Americas and Macke's boat but how could there not be?

Back at the campsites we found that site 55 with its direct access to the water was reserved by Rob Rhode-Szudy, a well organized guy. He arrived from Wisconsin with family and van and his Piccup Pram on top. His Piccup is tricked out and we'll be presenting an article next issue about the tricks. Here he is with wife fishing and there is a toddler in there too, all in an 11' cartopper.

While we walked around the road we found others were scattered here and there (the campground situation was more crowded than usual since big Carlyle Lake and all its campgrounds were totally flooded out so Rend was getting overflow). Van Allison and son appeared with their pirogue, an Uncle John's pirogue, I think. They took advantage of the calm conditions.

And Phil Lea returned with his daughter and his oversized Junebug. I've forgotten the scale up ratio but it isn't much. It also is a delux boat. Here it is ready for a drag race with Max's AF3, waiting for the start flag to drop and the wind to blow!

Meanwhile back at the ramp more were arriving. Paul Brunkow brough a spanking new Bolger Cartopper with its now famous "ass hammock" rowing seat. Paul has since finished his sail rig but it wasn't needed this weekend - oars were a lot faster.

But that didn't keep David Grey from trying. He brought his Hot Tub which is I think based on the Bolger Skimmer. Dave's version uses foam board construction covered with wood veneers as I recall. He used it three ways that weekend - oars, power, and sail. On Sunday morning we did have a bit of wind and Dave was out there doing it.

Don O'Hearn paddled into the messabout with his new Toto. He epoxied and varnished the outside but didn't paint it. A very good way to finish a boat that will get regular use, I think, since scrapes and scratches aren't as visible. It is easier to touch up and makes great camoflag. Here Don is between the AF3 and the Cartopper.

Last, Richard Harris and family brought in his Frolic2 which was built by Jeff Blunk a couple of years ago. I was looking forward to this one since I had never seen Frolic2 for real. Richard had just gotten all the registrations squared away and this was his first trial too. We rowed the boat out of the launch ramp cove, set up the sail and worried it along in the light shifting winds to the camp area. The winds were light but the sail is large and the long multichine hull moved along well. If fact it really rolled along at times with three men on board. The sail is the same as a Bolger Windsprint, a much smaller and lighter boat! I've never understood how Windsprint sailors have survived over the years.

Eventually I got off and Richard's young family got in for a ride.

Saturday night was cookout time and John and Susan McDaniel got there just in time. They didn't bring the 50' steel Bolger sailer John is building.

Max and I headed back to the cove, I retied to my tree and Max steeled himself for the spotlights of the night fishermen. But they took the night off. There was another bass tournament but it started over in the state park and we had a quiet night.

Sunday is leaving day and we have found from experience that getting out by noon is wise because that is when the hell boats arrive. Max had brought a 2 hp Elgin for use on the Frolic2. I wanted to see this in operation since the Frolic2 has an unusual stern for a sailboat with a motor well on centerline and the rudder offset to clear it. Here it is with the Elgin in place.

The small notch in the stern for the motor was long enough to allow the motor to tilt but not wide enough to allow the motor to swivel enough to steer with it (and the Elgin is a pretty small motor). So you start the motor and steer with the rudder. That worked fine. I wouldn't mind having a set up like this on my own boat. I think it is superior to the usual offset motor bracket. The offset rudder has no adverse effect except the tiller needs attention to get the grip back to centerline. Plus it needs enough curve to prevent interference with the raised motor. The Frolic2 plans show a straight tiller with a hiking stick but I know hiking sticks can be a bother. Jeff Blunk built a tiller that curves to bring the grip to centerline. We did this with good success a while back with Petesboat where we had 60hp on center. There we used a linkage from offset rudder to centerline tiller but there is extra work in it.

Well, that's the report for this year. Hope to see you next year!


Rob Rhode-Szudy talks about that tricked out Piccup Pram.




I reviewed the 14' Piragua last issue. Here is the same boat stretched to 18'. The width of the boat remains at 24" maximum on the bottom flaring to 30" maximum inside the wales, too narrow to stand up in. It is intended to be paddled with a double paddle like a kayak. The stretch creates more weight carrying ability. While the 14' Piragua will take two adults in a pinch, Piragua18 will float 500 pounds before its bow and stern start to drag the water. The empty hull should weigh about 100 pounds leaving 400 pounds for people and gear and that should be enough for two grown men.

I've also shown on the drawing how I would rig a boat like this with an electric trolling motor. A typical trolling motor and 100 amphour trolling motor battery will together weigh around 100 pounds and this hull will handle the weight of the rig better than the shorter boat. I'm thinking that is no need to get a large motor. The smallest I've seen for sale lately was 30 pounds thrust which is usually rated at 1/2 hp. That should drive the boat about 5 mph. Better would be to throttle to about half power which should give about 4 mph. The battery has to be a full sized deep cycle trolling battery. There batteries should never be deeply discharged, in spite of their name, and for long life they should not be discharged more than 70% of their capacity, and they should be promptly and fully recharged after use. At full power the 100 amp hour battery should give about 1.25 hours of endurance for a range of about 6 miles in calm conditions. At half power the battery should give about 3.5 hours endurance for a range of about 14 miles. Note that at high rates of discharge a battery has inefficiencies that prevent it from delivering its full charge. Anyway, power and hull should together weigh about 200 pounds, still leaving 300 pounds for folks.

This hull might be a good starting point for a beginner's sliding seat rowing boat. It has the length and light weight and wide open interior that would take rails for the seat. She's way too narrow for rowlocks mounted on the wales. You would have to add riggers. No doubt the best approach would be a drop in unit that has rails and riggers and foot braces all bolted together. You would have to secure it to the hull somehow but that could be done in such a way that the unit could be removed and the boat returned to its canoe configuration.

Anyway this is powered I think it would be a good camper's boat assuming there is no real rough water about. The ends are boxed in with buoyancy/storage volumes and the center 9' wide open for sleeping. The hatches into the storage boxes are small, only 6" wide, in order to make them less likely to take water in an upset.

Construction is simple nail and glue like the original Piragua. Three sheets of 1/4" plywood will do it. I don't think these boats need epoxy coatings if they are stored under cover. The chine corners need to be armored with fiberglass set in epoxy and the inner seams given a fillet of epoxy putty to keep water from creeping into the seams.

Plans for Piragua18 are still $15 until one is built and tested.


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:

Electron: The California Electron looks done to me. Right now a four cycle 2 hp outboard has been purchased so the original electric idea may wait a while.

Shanteuse: The stretched (16' to 24') Shanteuse still awailts its windows. Here it is on trials for Florida river cruising.

Sowsear: Just heard of a prototype Sowsear going together very quickly in Pennsylvania.





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