Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15nov02) This issue will present the knockdown of a Jewelbox Jr.. The 1dec02 issue will present information about rigging lugsails.


BOATBUILDING FOR BEGINNERS (AND BEYOND) 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.


Rick Bedard sets up his Jewelbox Jr for a knockdown.




Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.




I got a nice letter the other day from Rick Bedard in California. He had just finished a Jewelbox Jr and took it out to sail. There was no wind to speak of! He had read the knockdown episodes that were recently presented on this site and decided to take a bit of time and see what the JB Jr would do in a knockdown.

Two things to mention here before getting into his story. One is that JB Jr has a Birdwatcher type cabin where everyone rides inside looking out through the windows. It is supposed to be self righting without ballast but some boats of this this type have proven to need ballast and paper analysis of JB Jr using programs not available when I designed it had shown it would be stable on its side if heeled over about 60 degrees. So I was really interested in a test of the real thing. Second is that if you are to do a test like this it is usually best done with a brand new boat, one that has not gained much gear and junk that will need to be removed for the test or else the stuff with slide and tumble all over the place during the test, as it all will do in a real knockdown.


Rick's JB Jr looks right to the blueprints to my eye. He said the bottom was doubled to 1" thick from the blueprint's 1/2" for stiffness although the extra weight there, probably about 70 pounds, will help the stability too. Also the mast is a hollow round "birdsmouth" mast instead of the blueprint mast which is square in section and solid.


First he put the boat in waist deep water with bow and stern tied to the shore to prevent the boat from moving sideways when the halyard is used to pull the boat over. The sail and boom were stowed.

With no one in the cabin the boatwas pulled out using the halyard like this:

At this point which looks to be about 45 degrees of heel the boat will still self right as indicated by tension on the halyard.

Here it is at about 60 degrees still with tension in the halyard so still with positive stability.

He pulled it over a bit more and the halyard tension went to zero, the boat falling over on its side. Like this:

Looks to me to be at 70 or 75 degrees of heel. Rick had these comments at this point:

"Here's what happened. When pulling the empty boat over, the pull on the halyard to heel her was at first light, then it took more and more force to heel further, until the gunnel was immersed and the windows began to touch water. Then the load on the halyard quickly diminished, until it was gone. At this point the outer corner of the center of the cabintop was less than two inches from the water. Then the weight of the mast alone caused the boat to heel by herself that two inches, and she plopped over till the windows hit the water, then maybe one inch (of the cabintop) immersed as the buoyancy of the cabintop stopped any further heeling. The boat came to rest at that point, -(that's what I meant by stable). However the slightest push up on the mast and she popped upright. Thinking back, I bet (but didn't think to try) that a lowered leeboard would have been more than enough to keep her from "falling" that last couple inches."

"I then tried to heel the boat further. Pulling down on the halyard from that heeled position took significant effort. One time while holding the masthead in the water while waiting for my kid to snap a photo, my hand slipped releasing the mast and the boat popped upright. My feeling is it was the buoyancy of the cabintop that built enough momentum to get the hull past the "stable" zone as I called it."

"Then when floating in that heeled mode, I waded to the hull and pressed down on the mast next to the cabintop and had to put most of my weight there to get the mast to touch, and all of my weight only put the top two feet of the masthead under an inch or so."

"Climbing inside, I could only keep the boat heeled down by keeping my weight (feet) in the chine or on the hull side and leaning on the cabintop rail. Any shift of my weight towards the sole and she rolled under me upright. When I tried to sit centered in the chine she rolled herself upright."

"I did this three times while trying to put the cabintop under. Again, getting the hull to right was nearly effortless, it was a balancing act to keep it tipped over."

"When inside the hull, starting upright, my one hundred pound assistant could not pull the boat over using the halyard until I leaned hard out the cabintop while he was pulling. (I did this fearing a snapped mast, he was aggressively tugging away). The boat would stop heeling just before the cabintop corner would get to the water and go no more. By leaning out, and carefully staying to the heeled side of the chine I could keep her heeled. Any shift back and upright she went."

"Apparently I put little thought into what it took to right the boat, as empty it only took a small tug, and with me inside it was all a balancing act to keep her from righting."


Well, the JB Jr seems to behave just like Bolger intended a Birdwatcher to behave. Although the boat is stable on its side with no one inside, the weight of the crew is sufficient for the boat to self right. I think Rick's test is pretty convincing. It might be added that Birdwatcher designs have never been popular, probably because sailors don't care to be inside. But if you compare the knockdown results we've seen for IMB and now JB Jr to a knockdown of a conventional open boat, you might think the Birdwatcher boat is safer. If you compare the IMB or JB Jr to a conventional ballasted cabin boat you might think the Birdwatcher boat is a lot lighter and simpler.

Jewelbox Jr. plans are $35. For a write up about the Jewelbox Jr go to the links at the bottom of this site and click on the 1mar02 issue.


We'll take another look at rigging a lugsail.



Since I've been writing about the 15' Jewelbox Jr., I decided to present again this article done almost 5 years ago about the original Jewelbox. You might think that a 19' boat is only slightly larger than a 15' boat but here that is not the case. The 19' boat is probably twice the cost and weight and twice the internal volume. But it is not twice the work to use. It still can be set up and sailed very easily solo. Finally I'll add that these boats are the closest things to sailing houseboats around. They are flat bottomed, capable of going right up onto a beach in very thin water, with the downside that they can get pushed about in rough water....

Here is a boat that is supposed to be self righting to a great degree without ballast! Jewelbox has the combination proven by Bolger's Birdwatcher of high sides with a thick bottom and low down crew weight to act as ballast. Karl James built the prototype and told me his boat has righted from having its windows totally submerged. Thanks to Tim Webber for the scans. The Texas grapevine reports the original boat has transferred hands as Karl has gone on to designing his own. No surprize there since Karl had told me of adventures with 5 different boats he had owned. His Jewelbox has been all over the country, including the Mexican trip shown in the photo above, a lake/canal journey across the Florida peninsula, the Apostle Isles of Lake Superior, and the Fort Peck Reservoir. Here he and his brother Pete, with a 24' version of Jewelbox called Petesboat, camp out on Yosemite Lake (I think).

I watched Karl launch and rig Jewelbox solo in 15 minutes without getting his feet wet. Stepping the mast is a 30 second operation and it brings up one of the advantages of a lug rig. Jewelbox sets almost 160 square feet of sail on a 20 foot mast you can step solo without strain. Not only is the lug mast shorter than most other types, it can be lighter because mast deflection doesn't harm the set of the sail as it does in other types. So rigging Jewelbox is about like rigging a Sunfish. But this boat will sleep three adults inside the self-righting Birdwatcher cabin with lots of dry storage under the fore and aft decks. Karl trailers his with rudder and 6 hp motor in place ready to go. There's a self draining well in the bow to hold anchors,, muddy shoes, etc., with a step through bow transom.

Here's Karl raising the sail. You can see how safe the operation is. It's all done from inside the boat including stepping the mast.

I should mention that Karl made some beautiful segmented hard covers for the walkway slot. But later he went to a simple snap on fabric job. He greatly prefers the fabric job for camping. The hard covers are used for trailering and storage.

Jewelbox uses self erecting construction throughout. She needs 2 sheets of 3/16" Plexiglass, 7 sheets of 1/4" plywood, and 9 sheets of 1/2" plywood. It's all simple glue and nail construction with no jigs or lofting. Plans are $35.


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:

Sowsear: I'm told the Pennsylvania Sowsear is finished and has been tested. Should have photos soon.

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

Also in Australia, a Twang skiff has been started.

Closer to home, an Oracle rowing boat has been started in South St Louis.





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