Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15Sep05) This issue will take a look at the Russellville, Arkansas messabout. The 1 October issue will investigate a sail rig for Bobsboat.



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.


Garth Battista titled this photo "Joe Comes Aboard" and now I'm wondering if he built the Cormorant just for Joe The Dog?



Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.



Russellville Messabout


... on the Arkansas River near Russellville, Arkansas.

I was lucky to attend thanks to a ride from the motor guru Max Wawrzyniak. Max spent a wild summer in his youth as a boat captain near Branson, Mo and this was a bit of a homecoming for him as we drove down to Springfield, Mo and then headed south over the Ozarks of Jed Clampett, up and down through hill and dale, ears popping, ready to drop off the side of a mountain at any time complete with Max's AF4 in tow.

This was the first messabout at Russellville and also the first messabout in a long while for me that wasn't a constant rainstorm. The winds were light to calm, bad for sailors but great for canoes and kayaks and powerboats. Here is the scene on Friday afternoon after we got settled a bit and Max had launched his AF4.

The main lake of the river opens up to the right of the photo, maybe a mile wide here and of course very very long. There was no significant powerboat traffic during our two days. The cove shown here is about 2' deep with a nice sandy bottom. Campground within an easy walk and a pavilion which Phil rented about at the photographer's position, ie, very close. About the most perfect setup of any messabout I've attended.

Max's AF4 has been shown in this website many times and is a veteran. Hasn't changed much at all although it has gone through a weight saving program, as has Max. Still has the old 18hp Johnson with an even older 5hp Johnson for backup. Max slept in it on Friday in this cove, going for a midnight plus swim. On Saturday he put it on the trailer for an early Sunday getaway and slept in it on the trailer at a campsight. You can see the size of the main lake outside the cove and glass smooth conditons we had most of the weekend.

Another messabout veteran, Richard Spelling, brought his much traveled Bolger Light Cruiser which is a Chebacco variant. 20' long, I think, very roomy and open inside the cabin with no hint of the "cave" feeling you get in other cabin boats. Gaff rigged which folds down in a jiffy and a centerboard. I still have to go "sailing" with Richard in this boat. We went out with the sails set but seldom had enough wind to see what it would do. It did pop right along at over 6 mph with his 4hp outboard. Metal steps on the bow also good for ramming.

Phil Lea had two boats there that I know of. One was a CLC Millcreek 13, a mulichined kayak with a fairly wide bottom so it was stable enough for old folks. I took it out for a pretty long paddle and got 4mph on the gps with fair ease. It is about like my Toto but tracks straighter due to a pointy stern that stays in the water. Really a beautiful job but I forgot to get a photo having promised myselt to not take a camera in a kayak.

Phil's other boat is a Junebug times 1.1, that is a ten percent enlargement of the Bolger Junebug. I took this one out solo but again not much sailing as the wind got me a quarter mile out and quit. Came back with the paddle. When there is wind this boat has always been one of the fastest around at the Rend Lake messabouts, especially with Phil at the wheel. He gets his weight over on the lee side, the windward chine is clear of the water and off she goes!

Another early arrival was Paul Ellifrit from Columbia, Mo with his modified Selway Fisher design. You have seen this a few times at Rend Lake. This time I got a good ride in it. It occured to me that it was a lot like the Bobsboat design I've been drawing, about the same size and with an outboard mounted in a stern slot. I'm pretty sure it is heavier than my Bobsboat.

Here is a photo of the motor installation, a 20hp four cycle I think.

You can see the open slot in the bottom and stern. This well does not pump up with water at all. It is 2' wide as is the Bobsboat well, but the slot in the bottom is 16" wide where I intend for the Bobsboat well to stay 2' wide throughout. I had my gps with me and I think I recall the boat cruised nicely at 6mph and went about 8.5mph at full throttle pulling a big wave behind us. It won't go faster which is the nature of this sort of hull. I peaked under the hood while we were at full throttle and saw there was no fuss or bother going on under there. The slot worked perfectly.

Paul Paine came from Oklahoma with his modified Stevenson Weekender.

It was built with no cabin, just a wide spacious cockpit as you can see. I think this is Paul's first boat. This Weekender also has no centerboard, just about a 10" deep keel running full length. I was hoping to see this idea underway but the lack of wind kept that from happening. He had a fine new 2hp water cooled four cycle outboard that did its job beautifully. (That's Chuck Leinweber steadying the boom.)

In the background you can see Fred Gladdis, jounalist for the Russellville Courier, going for a spin in Phil's Millcreek13. Fred came by on Friday with camera and notepad, invited by Phil. At first I thought it would be the usual situation of newsman stops by for 10 minutes, takes photo, gets a name or two, and is gone. But Fred, who spent a tour in the Navy, went on ride after ride, and came back for all day Saturday to try out more boats and do more interviews. I hope Fred was bitten by the bug!

Larry Pullon has built lots of interesting boats. To Russellville he brought on of the most interesting and legendary boats I've seen and it is not a homebuilt.

What we have here is a genuine White River jonboat, this built maybe 30 years ago in very limited production in fiberglass. Here is a view of the interior stern:

This boat is just 3' wide on the bottom but is a full 20' long. You can see it is very lightly built, just 200 pounds empty. Larry has a newer 10hp Merc mounted on it. I went out with him with my gps and it went a full 18.5mph at full throttle! Solo he got 19 mph so it is a lot faster and not as weight sensitive as a short wide boat. The stern of the boat has a slight sweep up as you might detect in the photo but there are some wedges built into the bottom to make up for the sweep. The wedges do not extend all the way to the side with the motor mount so the motor is in the original swept up region. I think the motor shown is actually a short shaft and as you see is mounted well above the gunnel and yet it did not cavitate. Max and I thought the boat mold might have been built originally for much smaller motors than even the ten and not intended to plane. I point this out because everyone asks for a short wide boat but long and narrow it the best way to go if you can.

Later in the day I put the camera away and went for a long dip. Some more boats arrived at that time and I didn't get any photos. Scott Davis brought a Bolger Gypsy from Oklahoma, tried to sail but ended up paddling back. Dale Burris brought a beautiful wooden canoe and Don Walls brought a racing canoe, this one maybe 20' and 12" wide, or at least it seemed so. Phil tried it out and got about 10' away before it capsized. But Don and his friends had no trouble keeping it upright. It was light as a feather.

Phil barbecued chicken in the pavilion for supper and with the other stuff folks brought we had quite a feed and talked into the night.

Next morning Max and I got up early to start the long drive back to St Louis. None of us had heard a news report in days. As we rolled along we could not help but note the lines for cars with Louisiana plates heading north. The rest is history.


...We'll try to put a sail rig on Bobsboat.




I've tried several different ways to shape a hull to handle rough water. Rough water is a problem around here where the manmade lakes are flat and wide and shallow. We get whitecaps when the wind blows about 12 mph. I think the situation is about the same in a lot of places, like the Gulf Coast and the Chesapeake. When you do a power boat that is supposed to plane the situation becomes critical from the standpoint of control and of pounding to destruction of the hull or of the skipper. In boats like Brucesboat and Dorado I tried it with multichines to give a bit of a flat bottom. That makes the boat easier to use, I think, because it will beach sitting straight up and you will have a bit of a flat to walk on. I've also shaped the bow as in Twang to make the boat meet a wave a little bit at a time instead of with a sudden bang as with a flat bow. But the problem with a planing boat is that at speed it won't meet the water with its bow. Instead it will rise out of the water to meet it with its mid bottom. So with Veep14 I tried a V bottomed skiff.

Veep14 might be a handy all around small skiff which I would hope would take some rough water. (I see a bit of falseness in the idea that it would be "safer" than a flattie because the skipper might be tempted to venture forth in worse and worse weather while the flattie skipper will clearly chicken out and stay in protected areas. So when the V bottomed skipper finally gets in over his head it might be during weather in which no one will attempt rescue.) Veep14 has a constant V all the way along the bottom twisting to a high deep V bow in the forward third. The V reduces the capacity of the boat compared to a flat bottomed job. In this case it would be about 600 pounds maximum which would include the weight of the hull, motor, and gear. That might amount to 300 pounds so you see it is a two man boat at the most.

I've been warned that a V boat like this will need significantly more power than a similar flattie. By the size and shape and layout of Veep14 the usual Coast Guard advice would be for 15hp maximum. I would expect it to need that much to plane at max weight.

My original hope was to make this boat 12' long and light enough to cartop. But I convinced myself that it would be a one person boat if that short and that would be a mistake. And if it were light enough to cartop it might also be too flimsy to take the rough water it was intended to face. So I made it longer and used 3/8" plywood instead of the 1/4" I would use for a cartopper. The weight went up to the point where it will need a trailer but then again a 15hp motor is going to weigh close to 100 pounds and no one will carry around something like that more than once if he can avoid it.

Brian Walker built the first Veep14 in British Columbia. He said it was to the plans but he added a strake above the blueprint sheer line to give a bit more freeboard, and he put a small bit of flare to the stern for looks. There are some other detail changes but the bottom of the boat is to the plans. He got a good summer's use out of it including water skiiing behind it! He wrote:

"Hi Jim,

I installed a partial motor well; I did not extend it completely athwartships. I wanted to have access to the drain plug and under the well. Perhaps you can see the detail in the attached pics. The partial well effectively transfers the motor stresses to the next bulkhead, which is buttressed by the aft thwart. It is very solid.

I added some short lift strakes aft, just under the chine, as an intiial attempt to reduce spray, This was not completely effective, so I then added the spray rail.

For the lift strakes as per the plans, I cut a 10 foot spruce 2x4 diagonally in cross-section. This created a lift strake surface parallel to the water's surface. I fastened the strakes with epoxy and screws "after" applying a layer of 6 oz. cloth and epoxy on the bottom reaching above the waterline. (After doing a lot of boat repairs over the years, I don't think it wise to glass over strakes or other scantlings I don't want to create a terrarium under my boat). I removed all screws after the epoxy set and filled the holes with thickened epoxy. If (when) the strakes get damaged on the beach, the fibreglass skin won't as likely be compromised. In effect, the strakes will serve to protect the fibreglass skin.

I had my son and his friend out on the lake again today and the boat performed very well. We could go right through the wakes of other boats without slowing down with minimal pounding. A good one-foot chop came up and I could blast along solo at 25 mph both ways -- going with and against the waves. The boat is much more stable at rest than I anticipated. I can climb in and out of the boat from the water, but I might not have been able to in rough conditions without the raised freeboard for fear of swamping. The raised freeboard also allowed me to use a long shaft outboard, which is almost a safety requirement to go salmon fishing off the west coast of Vancouver Island. For inshore use, I would think that a shorter transom would be just fine.

The hull has not been changed except for some added flare, as discussed. The spray rails keep the water down in a crosswind and/or if the boat is loaded down. Without spray rails, the spray is confined to the aft 2 foot section with one or two people on board, but any heavier loads tend to draw water up the sides farther forward. Any cross wind can make for a wet ride. The current spray rails I added are 72" long x 2-1/2" x 1-1/4". They work very well with a medium load (three adults). I have sloped them downwards and outboard (in cross-section) about 7 degrees to force the water downwards. They are fastened about 3-1/2 inches above and parallel to the chine. I might extend them to a full 96" if I find myself carrying four people and a dog on a regular basis; otherwise, the water tends to climb up the vee bottom and up the sides amidships (but it's OK as is if I just slow down). I think three passengers is a safe limit, anyway."

Construction is taped seam needing four sheets of 3/8" plywood for the basic hull and one sheet of 1/4" plywood for the bulkheads and decks.

Plans for Veep14 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.

The out West Picara is I am told done to the point of using it as a powerboat:

The down South Picara is more or less complete now. Should have an updated photo soon.

This long and lean project is a 19' version of Toon2, awaiting its sailrig. Long and narrow and with multichines, this should be the fastest boat I've ever drawn if the skipper can hold it down.

A Vector builder is keeping a website of the project at http://www.geocities.com/michsand@sbcglobal.net/ and here is a photo of his boat on its first sail, just before the storm hit. I also have photos of a Vector completed by Pete Mohylsky in Florida. Hopefully a report soon:

Here is a Musicbox2 I heard about through the grapevine.





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