Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15Nov07) this issue will present some changes I am making to my AF4. The 1 December issue will rerun a knockdown recovery essay.



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.


Bill Mckeough takes his new Dockbox (narrowed from 5' to 4' to fit his utility trailer) out for a spin. Well done!




Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.




My AF4 Changes


...as I found out this summer. I strained my back doing nothing in particular and for two months suffered on and off. It affected my boating. I was using my old Birdwatcher for the most part since my AF4 is also sort of laid up. Early in the season as it sat on its trailer in the shed I threw a bucket of water into the cockpit to see how badly it would leak. Several buckets later I decided it was time for a new bottom. But that would be a winter project. Using the Birdwatcher again about twenty days with a sore back had me appreciating all those "step through" bows I had designed although I never had one for myself. The Birdwatcher really isn't too bad in that respect - boarding from a beach. The AF4 is worse, about a 30" leap of faith from ground to deck and back. Here is my AF4 two years ago on a busy weekday at Carlyle Lake (sort of have the whole place to myself on weekdays):

I had been thinking about ways to make it easier to board for a long time. When I'm healthy I usually sit on the little bow deck and swing my legs around into the deck slot. Then it is 3' down inside to the bottom. Egress is the reverse. Normally not a huge deal but a sore back would make you think twice about it and maybe you would decide on a different hobby for a while. I suppose I've been cruel since it was clear my wife had no interest in that leap of faith from the start. Anyway, as the boat sat in the shed over the summer I pondered an easier way to get aboard. Then one day I grabbed saw and started hacking. "If I'm going to ruin the thing with a new boarding idea I'd better do it now before getting involved with a new bottom," I told myself.


...and sort of eliminate the little front deck. First I found an old 2x4 that might make extensions for the current deck beams. I found that by splicing extensions to the insides of the current beams the width of the extensions would bring them right to the corners of what remained of the little front deck. These extensions were glued and screwed to the existing beams and to the deck. The center of that deck and the beam that formed the front of the slot were chopped away. The chopping did not seem to harm the stiffness of the structure there as a short parallel bar routine on the deck beams showed.


..., not all of it of course. In AF4 the volume in front of this bulkhead is free to flood and has drain holes in the bottom. So that pointy bow is really a fairing, the real boat starts at the bulkhead. I whacked it down so that it was 20" from bottom to the new top and that should be plenty of freeboard there. So the new step through is about 12" lower than the old. I made a drop board from some scrap plywood to fill the new hole. So far so good.


...that would do double duty as a shelf and as a step. This was placed about halfway between bottom and the new bulkhead opening, about 12" off the floor. So now a fellow could step up 12" to the platform and then up another small bit to the edge of the new opening, a huge improvement over the 3' leap of faith. Here is a photo of the old setup:

And here is a photo of the new:

My battery and toolbox are still to go underneath where they always stayed, and that high tech electrical system can mostly stay in place.


...The door had me stumped. This was going to be in the pointy bow. Remember that the pointy bow is not watertight on AF4, so leaks would be no problem. I chopped an opening in the starboard side wide enough to step through and down to 15" from the bottom. I tried it on and found I could step from the level outside the bow bottom, as say the beach would be from the beached boat, right onto the interior platform in one stretch if I felt like stretching. Otherwise it is a short hop through that bow door, onto the edge of the bulkhead opening and then like a gentleman onto the interior platform and then to the bottom. But when I exited I found at least in trials in the shed that the door needed to be larger so you can see where I had to whack at it again and reglue the old whacked piece onto the enlarged door. I am hoping that the new door, if I forget to close it, will not be a factor in boating. I think dangling down it will come to no harm (I don't intend to test that on purpose but fully believe it will get tested, probably at some critical time).

I hope my wife likes it.


We capsize some boats.



About 15 years ago I built a Payson Canoe and used it for several years before selling it. I replaced it about 10 years ago with my Toto double paddle canoe. Toto has the same multichine cross section as the Payson Canoe but I tried for a long lean bow which would be better in rough water and more foregiving of bow down trim. I still have that Toto, unchanged in any way since new, and still use it all summer. Amanda Johnson demonstrates:

The Toto shape worked so well that I used it in other designs like Roar2 and RB42. I tried it also in a sailing boat, the 20' Frolic2 (the original Frolic was narrower, more of a rowboat than a sailboat). Frolic2 was unballasted with a small cuddy and I hoped it would be a good daysailer and one man camping boat.

Bill Moffitt had built my Woobo design and funded a 20% enlargement of Frolic2 that would have a cabin, water ballast, and a yawl rig for cruising near the Gulf Coast.

The 20% enlargement idea went very well except that I had to deepen the hull more than that to give some serious headroom in the cabin, but it doesn't have standing headroom. Great empasis was placed on ease of use and rigging. The main mast is short and stepped in a tabernacle. There is a draining anchor well in the bow, a small storage segment under the front deck. The mast tabernacle is bolted to the bulkhead that forms the front of the sleeping cabin. There is a utility room aft of the sleeping room. Water ballast tanks are under the bunks and in the sides of the utility room floor, about 600 pounds of ballast as I recall. Aft of the cabin is the self draining raised cockpit with storage volume under the deck. Finally there is a self draining motor well across the stern. Construction is taped seam plywood.

Bill couldn't start his Caprice right away but Chuck Leinweber of Duckworksmagazine gave it a try. He has the room and tools and smarts to tackle a project like this with no hesitation. There weren't many changes from the plans that I know of, the main one being adding a conventional footwell to the aft deck which is designed to have a hatch type of foot well as with the Bolger Micro.

Chuck trailered his Caprice up from Texas to our Midwest Messabout this June and I had a chance to go over it, sail it for a couple of hours, and watch it sail from other boats. Wonderful!

Chuck tells me it takes less than 15 minutes to rig the boat to as you see here. As shown the boat has its ballast so you see it beaches very well indeed. I asked about the ballast. He can flood the tanks without power, just open the access plate, reach in and pull the fill plug and let the water rush in. Since the tops of the tanks are about even with the normal waterline he has to move his weight around to keep the tank depressed long enough to completely fill. Then you reach into the filled tank, replace the plug in the bottom, and then replace the access plate in the top. There are two tanks to fill.

Are the ballast tanks worth the building effort? On a multichine hull like this the tops of the tanks form flats that give places for bunks and storage so that is good. When full the boat should have a very good range of stabiltiy. Chuck's boat has never been in rough going as I'm writing this so the effect of the ballast remains to be proven. It has been capsized in a practice but the ballast tanks were empty and the boat was empty with no crew, etc.. But the ballast is a success from the standpoint that Chuck is able to tow his Caprice behind a four cylinder pickup truck. My idea was to pull the boat up the ramp and drain the tanks afterward by simply pulling the drains plugs. But Chuck has found it best by far to empty the tanks before recovering the boat at the ramp. So he uses a bilge pump in each tank to pump them empty. I'd be worried about water ballast tanks on a wooden boat from a rot standpoint and would be careful to open all the plugs and access panels when the boat is stored.

(I should add that I think an empty Caprice will weigh about 900 pounds based on the plywood sheet count (eight sheets of 1/4", nine sheets of 3/8" , five sheets of 1/2" and one sheet of 3/4"). But any boat like this can hold an awful lot of gear and junk.)

Caprice has the tabernacle setup that I first saw on Karl James' sharpie. The mainsail is 190 square feet, balanced lug. The mast is fairly short, stowing within the length of the boat when lowered. Chuck demonstrated putting up the mast, maybe a 15 second operation. I've been drawing these for a while on different boats but this is the first one I know of to get built and used. I'm greatly relieved that is all works so well. Before you decide to tack a tabernacle like this onto your boat, be advised that the tabernacle posts go clear to the hull bottom with big bolts all around a beefy bulkhead.

I thought Caprice sailed very well in the light winds we had that weekend. Tacked very smoothly through 90 to 100 degrees which is all you can ever get with a low tech rig. Very smooth and quiet compared to the sharpies I'm used to. It didn't seem at all sensitive to fore-aft trim. In the light winds it went 5 knots on the GPS which is certainly fast for the conditions.

Well, all in all I thought Caprice was everything I was hoping for.. Plans are $45.


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.

This is Ted Arkey's Jukebox2 down in Sydney. Has a temporary rig and he is working on the blueprint rig.

And the Vole in New York is Garth Batista's of www.breakawaybooks.com, printer of my book and Max's book and many other fine sports books. Boat is done, shown here off Cape Cod with mothership Cormorant in background, Garth's girls are one year older. Beautiful job! I think Garth is using a small lug rig for sail, not the sharpie sprit sail shown on the plans, so I will continue to carry the design as a prototype boat.

And the Leinweber's make another prototype! This one by Sandra, an Imresboat shown here on its first outing. They are taking it on a "cruise" so more about it later.

An Bill McKeough in Oklahoma has completed what I think is the first Dockbox. He narrowed it from 5' to 4' so it would fit his utility trailer but it still is a Dockbox to me. Details soon.





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