Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(1nov06) This issue will rerun the capsize essay, first part. The 15 November issue will continue the topic.



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.


Wojtek H. take Wojtek B's new Robote for a spin on the Vistula river near Warsaw.


Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.

Knockdown Recovery


This is a rerun of the 15sep99 issue which featured a capsize test done by Herb McLeod on his then new AF3. I want to keep this one up front because it demonstrates what you need to do when you capsize a sailboat which is not self righting, but rather is self rescuing. That is you can get it back upright and going again if you are properly prepared and if the boat, like AF3, has ample built in flotation or airboxes to keep it floating high on its side as you recover. A few things I'd like to point out. 1) Herb's tests were done in very benign conditions and if you capsize in really bad conditions recovery could be a lot more difficult or impossible. 2) If you tinker with a design such that you remove flotation or airboxes or enlarge hatches or move them off centerline, etc., the recovery system may not work and the boat may swamp to the point where you cannot recover. 3) If you have a design with no flotation or airboxes at all, such as most any traditional open boat, recovery is about impossible because the boat will swamp completely and be unstable even if it doesn't sink.

And now on to our story...


Herb McLeod has been sending me some great scans and also some results of capsizing his AF3, both intentional and unintentional. Early this summer he wrote:

"Hi Jim:

I now have 14 days of sailing in on the AF3. Alas, no pictures yet of it sailing on the water for the same reason as ever, no one else around to take a picture. Most days I am the only boat on the lake. Had one sail where we traveled 20 miles in one day. We did a 6.5 mile section that day in 1 hour 10 minutes with the small sail (69 square feet) on a beam to broad reach (lots of wind). Also managed to turn the AF3 on its side that same day. The AF3 floated well was easily uprighted, boarded and bailed out. Everything in the cuddy stayed dry and we managed to not lose any of our gear. But that is not what I am writing about....."

That whetted my appetite and I emailed for more info about the capsize.

"I'd like to hear a bit more about the AF3 capsize. In particular: About what angle did it go over?"

"I do not know because we were not sailing it at the time. We were both standing on the cuddy deck fiddeling with the sail in a good blow and it went over real fast. We have regularly sailed the hull at up to 20 degrees of heel and it does not feel unstable although I like it best at 10 degrees of heal. I have an inclinometer on the boat(overkill I know) so I know that the angle of heel is a real measurement not a guess. When sailing I had one puff that almost caused a knockdown because I had accidently cleated the main sheet. What happened is he boat healed over dramatically and the sail depowered enough that equilibrium was reached and I was able to uncleat the sheet in time to prevent a capsize. Unfortuantly I did not look at the inclinometer, but I was busy at the time.

" How did you right the boat? (Did you use the leeboard?)"

"Gord the fellow I was sailing with uprighted the boat while I swam off after our cooler that was quickly blowing away. The water was shallow so he was standing on the bottom. His comment after was that he was amazed at how easily the boat came back up. The second set of plans for the AF3 that I purchased was for Gord as after that experience he was convinced that he wanted to build himself an AF3 this winter. We will see..."

"How did you reboard the boat?"

"I climbed on from the stern. I have a small step on the stern that also doubles as a support for my mast cradle. Iput my hands on the stern deck and placed my foot on the step and climbed on board. I must take a photo of this step and send it to you. With the step it was easy to reboard and I could walk around in the cockpit with the water in it and bail it out. Gord then reboarded over the side, which was much more difficult and his choice not mine."

"What I will have to do the next time I am out sailing will be to dump the boat in deep water while watching the inclinometer and get you an answer. The water should be warm this week as it is again over 30C today. Unreal for us as it is usually cool, no one has air conditioning here. We were at a folk festival today but came home as it was too hot.

At summer's end he wrote:

"Hello Jim:

I was glad that I caught you in the other night. It was good to talk to you after so many emails.

I did get out "sailing" this Sunday. I rolled the AF3 solo both ways in deep water. The AF3 seemed stable to well over 30 degrees and I had the distinct feeling that I could have pushed it back upright until the point was reached that the water started to come over the combing of the cockpit. I had my large sail on the boat at the time of the test (103 square feet, 24-foot mast). Winds were almost non-existent. When it was rolled with the leeboard down in the water righting the boat was an easy task as all I had to do was put light pressure on the board. When the leeboard was up out of the water I "walked" with my hands along the chine log (it makes a good grip) to the leeboard and then pulled on the board to pop the boat upright. The comment from the yacht club spectators on the dock was that it came up too easy. They wanted to see me struggle for a while. When righted the boat had 6" on water in the cockpit against the center bulkhead. I pulled myself on board via the stern. I found it easiest to board directly in the middle of the stern because the boat would tend to wallow with the water in the cockpit if I was off to one side or the other. I found turning the rudder 90 degrees and using it as a hand hold helped to reboard. For those with limited arm strength a step on the rudder or a rope step on the stern near the midline would be a great help for reboarding. My son was taking photos I hope some of them turned out. Also asked another boat to take a few photos while sailing maybe we will get you a picture of the AF3 sailing.

I am now off for a week to Jasper Alberta with my son for some hiking and canoeing.



Herb McLeod seems to be the most energetic and organized person I've met.

The scenery of his sailing lake is certainly picture book beautiful. He has warned me that the mosquitoes don't show in the photos.

The capsize with two men on the cuddy deck is no surprize. The boat was not designed for that. In fact the idea behind the slot top cabin is to do all sail handling from inside the slot. You can do that if the snotter attachment is kept within reach of a person with his feet on the boat's bottom. I suspect the high snotter attachment Herb is using is to gain more sail efficiciency. That is true enough but after having snotter tackles fail in one way or another I learned to keep the them well within reach.

Actually the AF3 capsize seems very similar to my experiences with capsizing my old Jinni. Both boats capsize well before they take water over the side. Jinni had less flotation and I think took on more water. I was able to reboard Jinni over the side. It had lower sides and there seemed to be a trick to rolling over the side just as the boat was rolling upright. Then I had to be very careful to not recapsize the boat because of the sloshing cockpit water. And like AF3, Jinni couldn't quite roll upright until I put some weight on the leeboard. The Jinni had three skid/stiffeners on its bottom which I used as a toehold to regain the capsized boat in the same way that Herb used the AF3 external chines as a finger hold. I may add some similar skids to the AF3 drawings.

Herb looks to have gone through all his tests without disturbing any gear because he had it well stowed. Very important.


...More capsize stuff.




John Trussel built the prototype Toon19 in South Carolina. He had built several boats before this one including a Mixer of my design. He wrote this essay about his Toon19:

"Toon 19

For a number of years I have owned various "shallow water cruisers" (to include a Sea Pearl, a Dovekie, and a Marsh Hen). These are trailerable boats with shallow draft and minimal accommodations (involving some sort of tent). Shallow water cruisers make good day sailors and are often towed to distant locations for a rendezvous with similar boars and a weekend cruise.

When I hit my 60ís I began to encounter some physical problems. Without going into detail, I have had to accept that Iím not as strong, agile, or flexible as I used to be. If I were to continue sailing, I needed a boat with a combination of characteristics which did not exist in the boats I had owned. Specifically:

1. I needed a comfortable place to sit.

2. I needed to move around the boat without ducking or crawling.

3. I needed a boat which could be set up or taken down with little effort.

4. I needed a boat with the ability to reduce sail drastically while maintaining a balanced helm.

5. I needed some sort of cabin which was long enough to lie down in.

I have a large collection of boat plans and the internet offers many more plans, but nothing seemed to provide all of the features which I wanted. Jim Michalakís Toon 2 design had some potential, but at 15 feet in length, its cabin is too short for me to lie down in. I commissioned Jim to modify Toon 2. First, he lengthened the boat from 15 to 19 feet in length while keeping the same beam and depth. Second, we came up with a cat-yawl* rig using a balanced lug main and a sprit boomed leg of mutton mizzen. Jim was good enough to respond to my needs and kind enough to gently steer me away from my sillier ideas. He drew the plans and I built the boat. As always, it took longer than I expected and isnít finished as well as I might wish. Here is what I got.

Toon 19 may be considered to be a sharpie with the chines cut off and replaced by "bilge panels". This hull form is a plywood incarnation of the round chined "non pariel" sharpies and is supposed to reduce eddying around the chines. It is easy enough to build in stitch and glue and has the advantage of a flat bottom for beaching.

The cockpit does, in fact, provide comfortable seating. The seats are 12 3/8 inches above the floor and there is a nicely raked seat back formed by the sides of the boat. The space under the seat support is open so I can stretch my legs. However, the opposite seat is close enough so I can either put my feet up or brace myself as the boat heels. It is amazing that very few boats offer comfortable seating and delightful to have one that does.

Toon 19 has a full length companionway in its cabin. I can stand up between the seats and walk to the front of the cabin. Tending anchor, setting and lowering sail, and reefing are done while standing hip deep in the cabin. The layout of the boat keeps me in the center while moving around and minimizes the chances of going overboard.

The rig of the boat requires short, light spars. I simply pick the mizzen mast up (complete with sail and sprit) and drop it in its step. The main mast drops into its step in the floor of the cabin and is easily raised to its upper step on the side of the "slot top". The ergonomics of this layout is such that it takes very little strength to step or drop the mast. I can pull up to the launch ramp and have the boat rigged in 10 minutes. It takes about 15 minutes to furl the sails and drop the masts.

Years ago the Windmill club had t-shirts that said "Iíd rather hike than heel". In my later years, I would rather reef than hike. Reducing sail can change a white knuckle sail into a relaxed sail. However, the center of effort on some sail plans moves foreward as the sail is reefed. This can produce a lee helm which is the last thing I want when the wind kicks up. Quadrilateral sails arenít too bad in this respect, but a little mizzen allows the skipper to dial in weather helm by adjusting sail trim. With the main dropped and the mizzen sheeted amidship, the mizzen will hold the boat more or less head to wind. At anchor, the mizzen keeps the boat from walking around the anchor.

Toon 19ís cat-yawl rig actually does all the things described above, and with two reefs in the main will have all the flexibility I will ever need. However, I coerced Jim into drawing a "storm jib" to be flown in place of the main. An English kit boat company (see Error! Bookmark not defined.) came up with the idea and on paper, it should work in "survival conditions". I have the sail, but I havenít had occasion to use it yet. It will be interesting to see how it works, but since I try to avoid sailing in "survival conditions" I may never know if it is as good as I think it is!

Toon 19ís cabin has about 28 inches of headroom. It is long enough for me to lie down in and deep enough to use a porta-potty in decency if not in privacy (the userís head and shoulders tick up through the slot top) The cabin is suitable for one sleeper. The bilge panels cut into flat floor space. If you need to sleep two, a flat bottomed boat would be a better choice. A fabric cover makes the cabin more or less watertight, and the four deadlights make for a bright cabin. Due to the low headroom the cabin would not be a good place to sit out a rainy day, but for her intended use as a week-end cruiser, this is not a drawback.

So how does Toon 19 sail? Iím still working out details and I havenít had a chance to sail in company with comparable boat, but so far Iím pleased. The boat is well balanced and responsive to rudder and sail trim in light and moderate wind. She heels a little more quickly than I might like (perhaps a little ballast would slow the roll), but exhibits good reserve stability. With a single leeboard, the main offset to port, a balanced lug sail which hits the mast on one tack, and the mizzen offset to starboard, Toon 19 is an extreme example of asymmetry. I have tried to determine if the boat has a favored tack; if so, I havenít been able to identify it. I can point to 45* of the wind but I generally sail freer Ė somewhere around 50* -- and the boat is much happier and faster. Off the wind, the balanced lug acts a lot like a square rigged sail. Jibes are very gentle, in part because the portion of the sail forward of the mast acts to slow the jibe. Incidentally, if you want to make a balanced lug sail upwind, you need to keep the leading edge tight. This is accomplished with a tackle or a downhaul. I happened to have an old Harken Magic Box from a wrecked Windmill. It is certainly overkill, but it keeps the leading edge tight.

In the past 40 year Iíve built 11 boats and Iíve concluded that there are only two valid reasons to build a boat. First, I enjoy the process (and this is justification enough). Second, building a boat can be the only way to get the boat you want. Building a boat was the only way to get all the features I wanted. Toon 19 is that boat and she should meet my needs for sometime to come. Or until the boatbuilding bug strikes again."

Well, thanks for the essay, John. (I should mention that John is already working on that next boat.)

Toon19 is taped seam plywood. Looks like nine sheets of 3/8" plywood and two and a half sheets of 5/8" ply.

Plans for toon19 are $40.


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.

I think David Hahn's Out West Picara is the winner of the Picara race. Shown here on its first sail except there was no wind. Hopefully more later. (Not sure if a polytarp sail is suitable for a boat this heavy.

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:

And here we have an LHF17 rowingboat. The boat is being assembled now and the builder reports it to be at the limit of the taped seam method because of the wicked twist in the garboard. That would be true with any building method but perhaps the real Herreshoff builders used steamed planks. The builder also doesn't like the method of blending the ends of the planks into the stems (I copied from Bolger) using putty and tape saying he would prefer traditional rabated joint. Not a project for the first timer!

HOLY COW! A Jukebox2 takes shape in Minnesota. Unheated shop means no work during the winter. Check out that building rig!





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