Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(1jul06) This issue will present the Rend Lake 2006 Messabout. The 15July issue will float us down the San Juan River with Chuck and Sandra Leinweber.



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.


Tom Hamernik ponders yellow boats at the Rend Lake Messabout.




Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.




The gang gathered again at Rend Lake in Southern Illinois for our annual messabout. This time we had some of the best weather we have experienced in a long time. We also had almost no bothersome big motor boat traffic as you will notice in the background of the photos. I figure the price of gasoline has finally gotten to folks. They are cutting back on their motorboating as a result and with the current administration it is hard to see any change (could get worse) in the coming years. So those of us with little low impact boats may find this a golden era where we can take the lakes back from the big gas boats, at least for a while.


Me, I brought a Bolger boat, my Birdwatcher. I launched it in 1989 and brought it to the very first Rend Lake Messabout way back when. It has been in mothballs for the past few years, stored inside, and I managed to find almost all of its pieces. Two boaters, Norm Wolf (of Normsboat) and John Zohlen (editor of The Shallow Water Sailor) drove all the way from the east coast to give it a whirl. Here is a photo of us in the midst of a technical discussion:

Here is a photo taken during the meet, with Norm at the tiller and me up front adjusting a state of the art spinnaker:

Not bad for an oldie made without a drop of epoxy, just lumberyard wood, Weldwood glue, bottom glass stuck on with polyester resin and you are looking at the original latex paint. One issue I was having with the boat is that I now have a little 4 cylinder truck and I wasn't sure how the towing would go, especially pulling up the ramp. With the gang around I figured I could easily beg a ramp tow if needed, but it was not needed. The little truck handled it fine and probably got 20mpg on the hightway.

When I arrived there on Friday morning several boaters were already afloat. Tom Hamernik came down from Chicagoland with his yellow Mixer with a sail from a Bolger Teal. The original Mixer rig is a balanced lug, same as Piccup's.

Tom has his family with him, all in a 12' boat. Not much wind yet as you can see.

At the same time Paul Ellifrit from Missouri rowed out in his fine furniture, an Acorn dinghy as I recall.

Paul is set up to sail too and got his chance later as the wind piped up in the afternoon (same pattern on Saturday),

Dave Seaburg drove down from Rockford again. He always has something different. In the past he had a D4 dinghy with a sail rig he elaborated each year. This year the rig was the same but he has a new hull he designed himself. With a pointy bow now he says he doesn't get stopped by each wave as with the blunt bowed boat. Hard to tell from the photo but the new hull has a shallow V bottom:

I am told the float on the mast head was added after she went over a few weeks earlier. Dave reminded us to always keep our bailing bucket tied to the cockpit and not locked up in the buoyancy compartment!

Mike Zenker came back again with his Campanoe. Not a homebuilt but almost as production was quite limited and it has a lot of neat ideas. Made from two plastic canoes connected by a camping platform that folds in half for towing so the tow package is quite narrow. Power is I think a 6 or 7 hp four stroke. Shown here with its "house" up.

The sailing canoe in the foreground is by Currie and Abby Bishop of St. Louis and more about it later.

Chris Feller also from Chicagoland brought his everfast AF3. AF3 was originally designed with a sharpie sprit sail but Chis has his rigged with a balanced lug and this conversion is now included in the AF3 plans package. I think all will agree that Chris has one of the fastest boats at the meet. Not really sure why it is so fast but I would suggest a really good sail and that the boat is quite stripped of gear and light and well trimmed:

Also there on the first day was Mike Sandell from Chicagoland with the prototype Vector. Very much to the plans with his main changes being to narrow the seats and ask for a longer tiller. Polytarp sail:

The above photo was take on Saturday and by then Mike had all the sail bugs out and she moved along trim and quick. I mention this because on Friday the sail was not shaping well. But next day he figured out how to tug the strings and he got a perfect shape with no change to the basic sail. A nice job!

Rovie Alford was also there on Friday with a Grumman canoe but I did not get a photo. Rovie has been to several messabouts as he commutes between Kentucky and Florida retirement homes.


I think Rob Rhode-Szudy arrived on Friday night and had his Bolger Scooner moving well on Saturday. Left his motor at home so he had to launch and handle the big boat in the old fashioned way.

Quite a sight! Downwind wing and wing, etc. Fast. I think in this photo Chris Feller is crewing up front. Polytarp sails. Those of you who have been to the messabout know we sail very close to a highway causeway and I've often wondered what folks driving across the causeway thought when they would see such a sight as Rob's boat!

Paul Brunkow, biologist at Southern Illinois University, brought his Bolger Cartopper. He stays for a couple of hours, then he hurries home, and now I suspect he is afraid of the critters and bugs.

Steve Lewis drove down from Iowa with a power skiff and a punt. I knew he was there but seldom saw him and found he goes fishing. Thus I missed getting a photo but here is one from last year as he pops up on plane before a gathering storm:

Phil Lea arrived from Arkansas with his everfast Junebug x 1.1. I did not get a photo of it but again here is one from last year:

As far as I know the showdown between everfast Phil and everfast Chris did not materialize. Actually all the boats that were there this year were fast and trim, including:


You might recall the sailing canoe by Currie and Abby Bishop. A standard plastic canoe with sailing floats from PVC pipes attached to a 2x4 framework with large hose clamps, all this brought in on the roof of a car. Here is a photo of it in action:

AIN'T GOT NO RUDDER!! Normally I advise against such experiments but in this case it works! If you have ever read my yearly "Sail Area Math" essay you might remember that a boat will head upwind or downwind on its own depending on the placement of the sail and underwater board areas. In this case Currie has a handle on his leeboard. By swinging the board fore and aft he can steer the boat with no rudder. Here he has the board swept aft and is probably bearing away from the Birdwatcher photo boat. (Don't ask me how it is done going downwind. I assume he has to tack downwind.) After initial fumbling around Curry and Abby joined the fleet and easily sailed back and forth with us as you see in the photo. This is not a new idea in that it has been done in the past but this is the first I have seen in real life. I forgot to ask if Currie knew about the older boats or if he had reinvented it.

Another item I see that I might copy is his reefing system. His sail is a polytarp version of my Mayfly14 balanced lug sail. But it appears that his first reef only requires a single line to pull the tack up to the throat, thus converting it to a lateen sail. There is a second reef above the one you see in the photo which pulls the clew up higher to make it an even smaller lateen sail. With the winds we had that weekend there was no need to reef so I did not see it in action. Anyway, three cheers for the rudderless canoe!

Lots and lots of sailing on Saturday. A very steady wind came from a direction that allowed folks to sail for miles on a single tack. Most did. Sailed for hours and got tired and burned but you've got to do it while you can.


We have a cookout on Saturday night. The usual Chef is Max Wawrzyniak. He was off to a family reunion this year and could only stop by for about an hour before rolling on. So Mike Zenker did the cooking honors:

Note that everyone has a burnt/tired look. Norm and John did a show and tell of their shallow water groups sails on the east coast and Norm also showed a film of the Raid race in Finland he was part of.

With the weather we had there was no need to set up the sacred white polytarp. But you can't get three days in a row of great weather in Illinois and on Saturday after the eats we hurried to retrieve the boats, stow the food, and hunker down in our tents as a front rolled through. That didn't keep me from sleeping well that night.


I think it is time for me to admit the messabout is a Friday/Saturday affair and not a Saturday/Sunday affair. Folks have been arriving earlier and earlier each year. On Friday we had the whole lake to ourselves. The campground is less crowded. If anyone came to the meet on Sunday he would have found almost no one left. So next year I will announce it at a Friday/Saturday thing. Hope to see you there!

NEXT TIME: We'll float the San Juan River way out West with Chuck and Sandra.




I keep trying my hand at these little rowing boats. The idea is that they will cartop very easily, row quite well with one person and take two adults in a pinch. I also try to keep them somewhat seaworthy and easy to beach.

Rogue should be a very good cartop all around rowing boat. I kept her length down to just 10' which should mean that the boat will be short enough to cartop without bumper ties. That gets important because automobiles lost their metal bumpers back in 1990. It will also keep the weight to about 60 pounds for an easy lift to the roof. It should be easier to load than an 8 foot dink because those really short boats often can't be loaded one end at a time - they must be put up there all at once. Even ten footer might be too short for "one end at a time" loading although I know I can load an 11' Piccup Pram that way on a compact car, at least.

I kept the capacity up there at about 400 pounds with lines such that the stem and stern are still out of the water. With a light weight hull that should mean the boat might still row well with two adults. One might ask why longer boats are preferred. First, a longer boat can be faster at any loading because when operated at a low power mode, the speed of the boat is limited by waterline length, the longer the faster. That's because long boats make less waves that short boats and those waves are made by your arms in a rowboat. There are limits to the length, of course, but a really serious racing hull might be 20' long or more for a single seater. (I once saw on a college campus a racing boat for a four man crew, over 60' long as I recall. The rowing coach was trying to recruit men to row it, saying he preferred red shirted basketball players - the bigger and taller the better.) And one might remember that there are other elements that cause drag such as skin friction and windage, both factors get worse as boat length increases.

I went to multichines with Rogue and would expect her to be a good sea boat for the size, at least when rowed solo. (That is another argument for a longer boat. When loaded with a passenger the weight in the boat gets pushed to the ends and in rough water the boat will not lift itself over the waves but instead pushes through them and that usually slows you down. A longer boat is not affected as badly here.) I'm quite certain that a multichine hull has less drag all around than a flat bottomed boat, although I suspect the V is better yet. The multichine hull is a very good compromise in that it will beach flat and have draft somewhere between a flattie and a V bottom, everything else being equal. My first rowboat, Roar, had a hull like Rogue, but was 14' long. I found out from it that a multichine has little resistance to side loads, as in a cross wind. Thus to avoid needing to row in a "crab" in crosswinds, a multichine needs a lot of skeg area and a full length keelson.

Construction is taped seam. Three sheets of 1/4" plywood will do it and only two thirds of that ends up in the boat, the rest used as temporary forms that are removed. No jigs or lofting.

Plans for Rogue arel $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.

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. Shown here on its first sail in very light winds. We will wait a bit longer to get a sailing report in stronger winds.

Here is a Musicbox2 I heard about through the grapevine.

We have a Philsboat going together in California. You can see the interior room in this 15' boat:

And here is another Philsboat in northern Illinois:





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