Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

This issue completes an article about boat camping. The 1oct02 issue will be about knockdown recovery.


... 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.

THE 11TH ANNUAL LAKE MONROE (BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA) MESSABOUT will take place on September 20, 21, and 22 at Lake Monroe's Paynetown State Recreation Area. For more information contact Bob Bringle at rbringle@iupui.edu. I hope to be at this one.

THE LAKE CONROE (HOUSTON, TEXAS) MESSABOUT will take place on September 28. I plan to be at this one too. For more information contact David Routh at shorty@shortypen.com or check out his website.


Herknperk takes his Harmonica on the Eire Canal. Read all about it at his website




Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.



Boat Camping 2

...Ah, critters! The big furry kind have never been a problem. The only trouble I ever had was when three raccoons, in the middle of a noisy family fight, tried to board in the middle of the night. Some shouting and flashing of lights sent them away, arguing all the more among themselves. Don't lie awake thinking deer will be grazing next to your boat. Let's face it, hunters lash themselves to treetops and douse themselves with fox pee just to see one.

It's the tiny critters you'll see a lot of. If I were and entomologist I'd do a lot of boat camping. I think I could discover a hundred new species a night in the summer. I'd slide a canoe into the tall shore weeds and when it was half full of bugs, maybe an hour or so, I'd pack them off to the university. Originally I didn't allow for bugs and effectively never slept. Then I tried bug spray and still effectively never slept. It seems they know to avoid the sprayed areas and go straight for the lips, eyelids, nostrils and ear canals, and if you think I'm kidding you are wrong. You're almost better off letting them bite you and go home happy customers than to have them buzz your ears all night. The trouble is that they tell their many friends. So I got a bug net at a discount store. Works great! Sometimes I don't need the bug spray but I take it along just in case. The net needs no frame to be effective. Just lay it loosely over you like a sheet. On summer evenings the net is often warm enough to eliminate the need of a sleeping bag.

Ah, the sleeping bag! I bought a new one years ago and it looked so fluffy I saw no need to take the air mattress. Laying directly on the floorboards, the fluff mooshed down to nothing. Not only was there no cushion, but the slick nylon bag kept sliding downhill on the somewhat canted floor. Another sleepless night. For summer camping I'm not at all certain a sleeping bag is required. A heavy sheet or bug net may be all you need for warmth. One fluffy sleeping bag can take up as much volume as all the other gear combined and in some boats like a solo canoe, the storage volume is precious. If the temperature gets below 60 degrees, you'll need a bag but you don't need an expensive one. Camping in really cold weather is a hardship I avoid. Get a sleeping bag with synthetic filler which still works when wet.

And what if it rains? My advice to beginners is never camp on a rain forecast. Since I got a NOAA radio years ago I've never been caught out in an overnight rain, but it will happen someday and I'll get wet. I've tried boat tents in the past. The first was a low tight fitting affair for m little Teal. I used it one 40 degree night and spent the evening dreaming about how cold I was. With no ventilation, the inside was damp and miserable. For Jinni I made an open ended job with six feet of heard room. It worked very well stretched from stem to stern set on a sprit boom as a ridge pole. One warm summer night my wife and I got caught in a good rain which didn't bother us at all. Next morning I rowed back to the ramp in the rain with the tent still up (no wind), oars sticking out from under the tent, and wife watching out the bow opening directing me. Now I carry the tent but don't put it up unless it really starts raining. It restricts movement, and, worst of all, my view of nature which is why I'm camping in the first place.

My Piccup Pram and its several related cousins sail with a balanced lug rig which can be set up as a shelter. Herreshoff suggested this for his Beach Cruiser. It works surprisingly well in showers as he said it wouldl. it won't stand a tornado, I fear, but it's there for you if you need it.

I haven't done it yet but I think a good tent could be rigged for rowboats using the oars as tent poles. Use a light nylon tent fly material. It is supple enough to fold compactly and be quiet in the wind. The blue poly tarps are cheap and waterproof but are hard to fold and make a racket in a wind. I've tried it - another sleepless night. Your tent will stay tight in almost any wind if you secure it with shock cord like they do real tent covers. In fact, a quick shelter might just be a self supporting tent fly like that of a a Eureka Timberline tent, for example.

I suppose a Birdwacher type boat is the best rain camper. You can even sail or row it covered over. I designed a plywood cuddy cabin sixteen footer with a walkthrough roof similar to Birdwatcher, but smaller and much cheaper. I modified my old Jinni to test the notion and it works well. Leave off the hatches in good weather and cover the walkway with a bug net at night. If it rains, you can pop the hard top into place in a minute. That original sixteen footer, called Pencilbox, is under construction by a man who wanter to keep his kids safely corralled in the open topped cuddy and didn't care a damn about camping.

Well, if we've fooled the rain, I'll suggest some other weather parameters. Keep within them until experience allows you to expand them. Our large shallow lakes white cap in 10 to 15 mph winds and make rough and even dangerous going for smaller boat. 40 degrees is too cold. 90 degrees is getting too hot and will greatly increase your drinking water requirements.

Take 2-1/2 gallons of water per person per day. I've found it to be enough, including cooking and a bit of washing. For a one day trip I use an insulated jug of that amount. In the summer I put in ice to the top, add water, and it stays cold for a day. I drop in cans of my favorite beverages and they stay icy cold just like in a beer commercial. I'm refreshed just thinking about it.

I've also started taking along a little percolator for coffee. It makes three cups of the real stuff in five minutes on my little stove.

For a stove get a backpacker's one burner job that uses standard propane bottles. I have an excellent little butane stove that I've used for years but the butane bottles are now available only by writing to the Queen of Jupiter. There things don't always work well in really cold weather and you're supposed to sleep with the fuel bottles to keep them warm. No kidding. I would avoid any stove requiring gasoline. Done get a pressurized kerosene job. I've got one and it's a beauty. It roars like a Saturn rocket and I've abandoned it several times thinking it was about to explode on the launch pad, which it hasn't done yet. I wouldn't dream of using it in a boat. It belongs at Cape Canaveral.

Get a little set of aluminum pots and dishes like the Boy Scouts use. If it comes with an aluminum drinking cup, throw that cup away and get a plastic one unless you like burning your lips.

For food, start with a bag of doughnuts for breakfast. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches work for lunch. If you're gonna cook, avoid anything requiring refrigeration. I like pasta and cheese, self contained in a box. Just boil the pasta and mix in the cheese. Canned stew is great if you can digest it. If you'r gonna be out all day, think in terms of 2500 calories a day. You don't want to go hungry. But for the first timer, I suggest eating a big meal before camping, setting up camp in the evening before dark and just skip cooking. Then hit the doughtnuts and coffee for breakfast and get off the lake efore the water skiers wake up (about noon) and into a restaurant. At the restaurant take into account that you probably look and smell bad.

I'm suggesting the first timer keep his boat camping experience brief because he may not get much sleep. Until you're used to camping in the rough, your senses may be overwhelmed by strange noises. Earplugs help a lot and I'm very serious about this. You would think that after the skiers have finally run out of gas and the yachters out of firecrackers that it would be nice and peaceful, and sometimes it is. But on a calm night you will hear a new set of noises - an interstate highway miles away, or a railroad you never knew of. In southern Illinois it is coal mines and well drills with huge diesel engines. Crickets chirp, frogs croak, fish splash, owls hoot and coyotes howl. Furry things scamper through the woods around you. and around sunrise you may hear early fishermen proceed through a litany of sincere oaths aimed at starting balky outboards. yes, I've awakened to that too. You can't keep the noise out by shutting the door, but you can shut your ears.

Had I done so, I might have missed a fiasco years ago when I awakened by the roar of an engine and the flashing of headlights. The nearest road was a half mile away, at least, but these fellow were determined to carve a new one through the brush at midnight. Luckily they were on the opposite side of a small inlet from me. Their vehicle sank to the axles in mud and that alone saved them from going into the drink. They divided up their beer and headed back down their new road to seek a wrecker. I didn't wait or their return but rowed out into the pitch black stump filled inlet to another site.

It pays to have your gear set up so you can relocate quickly. Another time I camped in a tiny canoe on a closed off abandoned campground. Or so I thought. While cooking noodles and watching the sun set, I couldn't ignore the whine of huge engines ranging through the old grounds, now overgrown with trees and brush. Closer and closer they came until there was no doubt in my mind that I was about to get run over. The Army had chosen this place and time to hold maneuvers! As they roared by in full gear with guns dangling, they all waved to the guy sitting in his little boat boiling supper. I relocated quickly before dark. Paddling a tiny canoe in the dark feels like floating through deep space and seems about as safe.

After dark I like to stare into deep space a lot and read a little. A small book with big print is nice. I always take two light sources. I suppose a flashlight is handiest but they don't always work. A little fluorescent tube job is best for reading and area lighting, but they don't always work. I've tried a little candle lantern but it was very expensive and gives little light. It's very compact. Refill candles are special order from the Queen of Jupiter. My favorite light is the old fashioned kerosene lantern. I'ts bulky but cheap and always works. Bring at least two lighters but never start a campfire.

Take a change of clothing along. One nice thing about summer camping is that no bulky clothing is needed. In cold weather bulky clothes can become a limiting factor in your camp. Also, exhausting a supply of dry clothes in cold wet conditions can be downright dangerous.

Don't forget the toilet paper. Keep it in a waterproof bag like a zip lock. You go discretely in the woods. Watch out for the bears. They go there too, we think.

Well, I'm at the end and I hope I haven't discouraged you. It's really simple and requires little hardship if done properly. The less gear you take the more you'll enjoy it. Something interesting happens almost all the time. First, try boat camping by yourself or with someone equally fanatic, at least until you get your gear figured out and you can sleep or are used to not sleeping. Don't ever drag along someone who hates roughting it. Not only will they be repulsed forever, but you will likely find the experience repulsive, too. However, if someone notices your satisfied fanaticism and wants to come along, by all means give it a go. Explain to them that there is no cable TV. For that they'll have to pay $60 at the State's new hotel.


Knockdown recovery.






Fatcat2 is still really a prototype boat even though I can show photos of a completed boat. What happened is that the builder, who is in his mid 80's, was taking the prototype to the lake to test when it was damaged in a road accident. So I've put Fatcat2 back into the prototypes catalog and perhaps we can get another prototype built.

Fatcat2 is a cuddy cabin sailer patterened somewhat after a traditional catboat. She's the widest boat I've ever done, proportionally speaking, but lots of boat have been built to these proportions and my my Piccup Pram, which is almost similarly wide, certainly has no difficulties in rough going. The multichine bilges make a big difference and I wouldn't try a serious boat like this with a totally flat bottom. This boat has a short wide cockpit with benches that should be comfy for three adults. The cabin will be nice for a solo camp or a hide-out for two.

The mast is about the same length as the hull and steps in a tabernacle, both features should make for quick rigging. With a crutch or gallows to hold the struck rig you should be able to fold it all down without unhooking all those lines that a gaffer needs. I've seen it done on a Mudhen and it looks like Walter has rigged his Fatcat2 that way. If you look hard at the tabenacle in the photos you might make out that Walter also has rigged a winch to pull the mast up.


This boat is not ballasted. I did some paper studies of its stability which backed up my experiences in boat like this. They are usually most stable at about 20 degrees of heel, which might be the most heel you should sail at normally. Beyond that point the righting moment decreases until it reaches zero at about 50 degrees of heel and she'll go over. I'd expect her to lay high on her side because the rig is buoyant. Most likely you will have to parbuckle her upright with a rope if the leeboard is on the high side of the knocked down boat and out of your reach. I'd expect a rope or transom step will be needed to reboard the boat. A slot in the rudder for a toe hold, about 12" below the water, also works well as an emergency boarding ladder. The cockpit will take on a small amount of water but I'll bet she'll sail with it. A bucket is the only way to clear that sort of water, those pretty hand pumps being about useless. (Making Fatcat2 self righting in the usual way would mean making the belly twice as deep to float about 400 pounds of ballast, then add a self draining raised cockpit. A very different boat that some might prefer.)

You might also note the similarity between Fatcat2 and the Electron prototype shown below. Fatcat2 was designed first and Electron was a lengthened and slimmer version of it.


Fatcat2 is built with taped seams and no jigs or lofting required. The plywood bill looks like four sheets of 1/4" plywood, fours sheets of 1/2", and two sheets of 3/4" plywood for a thick bottom. Plans are $20 until one is 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 in the water. Right now a four cycle 2 hp outboard has been purchased so the original electric idea may wait a while. I'll have a writeup on this one in a few weeks.

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





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