Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15May04) This issue will show how to set up a rowing boat. The 1Jun04 issue will discuss putting motors on rowing and sailing boats.



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....


...which 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 15TH MIDWEST HOMEBUILT BOAT MESSABOUT will take place at Rend Lake in Southern Illinois on the weekend of June 12 and 13. Remember that lots of folks come on Friday and leave early Sunday. Take I-57 to exit 77W and then follow the signs to the Gun Creek Recreation Area. Camping at this Corps of Engineers facility is $10/night and that includes the ramp fee. There is no schedule of events except a pot luck dinner in the campground on Saturday evening - we wing it. This year some of us have reserved the campsites on the water of the two middle camping loops so look for us there if we aren't at the boat ramp.


A bunch of bulkheads curing by the fire on a snowy day. Might wait until your wife is away for a while.




Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.




I've been showing photos of Max Wawzyniak's Oracle prototype for the past few month. The project was done a while back but we were frozen in until about the first week of March. Then it all burst out then and we had a day in the 70'sF and it was time to launch. That particular day the wind was gusting to 30 and no testing was going to get done but it was a good day to take photos and also to set the boat up in the way I like to see it done.

We went to Washington County lake here in Illinois which is about a mile long and with many arms, steep hills around and a shallow launch ramp in a protected area. A very nice rowing lake.

The first thing I must say to those who are finishing a new rowing boat is to not install the rowlocks in the shop! I usually show a rowlock location on the drawing but that is just my best guess at the time I drew the boat. If you have a little patience you can get it just right the first time by following this essay.

Max unloaded his new Oracle and showed me his gear. He had made a low rowing seat, 3-1/2" high, and had some nice 8' oars. The seat looks low but you will usually have a cushion on top and this is a low sided boat. This seat turned out to be just right for Oracle.

Next the boat was placed in the water tied loosely to the dock. Max climbed in and we looked for the seating position that would provide a level boat.

Here he is too far forward and you can see that the bow is down and the stern is up. I might add that it really takes two people to get this just right - one to be the skipper, and another to watch for the correct trim since seeing the trim from inside the boat can be difficult.

Here he is too far aft. The bow is up and the stern is down:

Here he is with his weight located properly for a level boat. At this time he marked the seat location on the bottom of the boat so he could easily repeat the location in the future.

Sitting in the properly trimmed boat Max holds the oars comfortably and notes where they cross the wale.

At those points he places a large C clamp in position to simulate the rowlocks.

Now for a test row using those C clamps as thole pins. If the clamps are large enough you might pass the oar through the opening or you might tie the oars to the clamps. In this case Max was just careful to keep the oars against the clamps.

At this point you can shift things around. Once you find the best place for the oarlocks, note the position and install the lock sockets. In this case Max used common sockets mounted outside the wale. He screwed them into position for now, to replace the screws with small bolts in the future. (Screws have a bad habit of working loose at the worst time.) Sockets mounted outside the wale instead of inside? They function a lot better outside with no chafing on the wale but if you are using the boat as a tender then inside the wale might be better because there will be no metal to gouge the mothership.

Not quite done yet. A good rowing setup will also have cleats inside the hull against which you can brace your feet. It's not a big deal in calm conditions but for rowing hard, and in some conditions all rowing will be hard, the cleats will make a huge difference in the amount of force you can deliver to the oar.

Max didn't install his on his test day but the cleats can be about 3/4" square and 6" long and mounted in a comfortable position. Many rowing boats will have several cleats spaced maybe 3" apart to allow for different sizes of oarsmen. Here is a photo of the cleat in my old Roar2. It was meant to be a temporary fit and was plopped in place with a blob of Bondo. Still temporary after 12 years!

Perhaps just as good as a cleat is the arrangement that Rob Rohde-Szudy made for his Piccup Pram with a rope loop to the seat that captures a bracing bar that rests on the floor of the boat:

NEXT TIME: We'll take a look at putting motors on rowing and sailing boats.



VIREO14, ROWBOAT, 14' X 3.5', 80 POUNDS

Vireo14 is a 14' version of the original 12' Vireo which was quite popular with all of its builders. In this case the extra length comes from a straight "stretch" of the original design. By that I mean that the same cross sections were used but now spaced 14" apart instead of 12". Another way to lengthen a boat is to add a straight "plug" in the center as is sometimes done to even completed boats and full size ships. I doubt if the stretch has any advantages over the plug except maybe in looks. Even there a short plug is hardly noticable, for example in the case of where I put a 30" plug in my Toto canoe to make Larsboat.

The extra length usually gives a bit more speed for the same power in a low powered boat, at least until windage gets to be a big factor. And in the case of Vireo it means about 110 pounds more capacity. The original 12' boat will float 290 pounds before the chines start to enter the water. Beyond that I would expect the boat to slow noticably, although boats with bows shaped like Vireo are superior in this respect. So you see that it is a push to float two large adults in the 12' Vireo. The Vireo14 will float the same way at 400 pounds and will be much better with the two adults. Hull weight will increase by 10 or 15 pounds, of course.

Vireo14 uses taped seam construction needing four sheets of 1/4" plywood.

Vireo15 plans are $15 when ordered direct by mail from me until a prototype 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.

The Texas Ladybug is looking about done:

Out West the Picara picks up where it left off before the winter:

The Deep South Skat is getting its brightwork:

Another Picara, this one with a 1' stretch in the middle, going together in Arkansas. Sailmaking done and its on to glassing the hull.

This is an AF4Grande (upside down):





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