Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.


(1July09)This issue will recap 2009 the Rend Lake Messabout. The 15 July issue will rerun the rowboat setup 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.


Chris Feller's Philsboat and Mike Sandell's Fatcat2 drift at Rend Lake.




Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.




Rend Lake 2009


...was held on the weekend before Father's Day at the North Sandusky camp grounds. That was a change from previous years when we met at Gun Creek but you will see in the photos that the beaching area at Sandusky was better and the grounds are next to a large sheltered "no wake" cove. I suppose the downside to Sandusky is that it is harder to reserve although Rob RZ's tireless work made it possible, and maybe that getting to the open lake requires about a mile of cove sailing.


...that I forgot to pass the sign up sheet around and forgot to get pictures of everyone. I will do my best to recall but if I goof, send me an email and I can correct this essay along the way.


I arrived on Friday morning to find a few early birds already on the lake. I launched my AF4 and headed out to see them. Winds were quite light but apparently steady as some had already sailed across the lake, about 2 miles, and back. First seen were Chris Feller in his Philsboat and Mike Sandell in what is perhaps the prototype Fatcat2..

The Fatcat was on its initial wetting, at least in keeping the water out. Mike reported driving through very heavy rain on the way down from Chicagoland and he knew then that the hull did fine in keeping the rainwater in. A good first sail I think. The polytarp sail did wel

Also out on the lake was early bird Paul Ellifrit with the prototype Family Skiff. Again with a last second polytarp sail that did well. Shown with him is Phil Reed. They got back and forth on the lake in those light winds. When I saw him the first thing I thought is that I had to add a foot to the mast length on the drawings. Other than that I thought the Family Skiff did fine.

Also out in this group was Dave Seaberg and Co in the custom yacht he designed and built a few years ago. Dave is a veteran of this meet and always shocks us with his tales of dumpster diving for parts and materials and I suppose there is no dumpster in Rockford safe from him and he is mighty proud of that. For example this boat has a rolling furling jib with a mechanism made from someone's cast off spinning reel.

Phil Reed eventually got out of the Family Skiff and went for a spin in his CLC shown here. He paddles on the Illinois River north of Peoria normally.

A word about this year's weather. Almost perfect. As dark as these first photos look it never rained on us. The winds were light to zip all weekend, very much unlike last year's blow. Still there was enough wind for folks to sail a bit with new boats which really shouldn't be taken out in a big blow first time. The lake seemed quite high. Here is a photo of the beach area by the campground:

In the foreground is the Family Skiff. The beach here was a gentle slope but past the Fatcat it was a quick drop off of two or three feet, resulting in a couple of surprise pratfalls to which I was witness. I suppose in normal water the quick drop would not be there.

Bob Bruce brought his MiniPelican from Tennessee. I've never seen a for real Pelican and I thought this was the real thing. But Bob said it was scaled down and not full sized. It sailed well with a bidpod mast and Tyvek sail!

Rovie Alford has been a regular at Rend. This year he brought a Piragua18 fitted with a commercial rowing wing made for a canoe conversion.

I gave it a whirl. The outrigger actually worked well but I had the impression it needed longer oars to make it fly. At 3 or 4 mph there was little wake but I couldn't go faster because of oar gearing, sort of like using a good bike stuck in its lowest gear. It has possiblities.

We get a steady stream of Puddle Duck Racers now. Here are two, these by Bill Giles and Andrew Nystrom:

Here is another by Jim and Sam Michaels who also brought a skin on frame canoe. This was a new boat and I can recall Jim and Sam deciding at last year's meet that a PDR had to be in their fleet. They work without power tools, by the way. All done with hand tools.

And here is a photo of the skin kayak that I took last year. I took it for a spin this year, a nice boat with excellent handling...

Someone brought this Catyak for us to play with. As I recall it was a freebie "just get it out of here" sort of boat:

In the background is Steve Lewis with his "Thing" scout canoe. A simple pram shaped canoe that Steve sails. It used to have some training wheel type floats, trimaran fashion, with floats of swimming noodles lashed to plywood plank centers but Steve has graduated from the training wheels. He has other projects at home and maybe next year, who knows what we will bring...

Here is an interesting photo...

That is my Af4 in the background. I slept in it both nights. In the foreground is maybe an Uncle John's Skiff by Phil Frohne. I think this boat was here before a couple of years back but with a different cloud of polytarp sail. I shall try to look it up.

I am pretty sure this beauty belongs to Jeff Hoessel. He was parked in the next camp loop and was out with his family doing water games both days and into the night. A big old Mercury on the stern and I think he said it was the "last of the dock crashers" whatever that means.

In the same vein was this "Gator Croc" (I think) by Bill Hoevel which had a small compact old Scott outboard (I'm guessing) and is used as a duckboat in the Fall (I think). Again they were in the next loop over but he is a veteran.

After Friday morning the clouds and wind pretty much went away leaving wonderful paddling conditions. I did not get the name of this double, but I hope someone will correct me so I can complete the record...

This photo was taken close to where the large cove opens to the main lake and I see that Dave Seaberg had managed to worry his sailing skiff that far. At this time I was in Feller's Philsboat but we at times would cheat with 3hp. While we were out there Jonathan Redfern stopped by for a chat with his kayak (not a CLC but I've forgotten the design). Jonathan is sort of a he-man long distance paddler although he doesn't appear to be a hunky stud type. He is more of a lean marathon runner type and I doubt if he can float on his own. He has completed thousand mile events!

Motoring back to the campground we found the usual suspects Kilburn Adams and Bill Dulin with their matching SkiffAmericas, one of Kilburn's designs. Also seen here is a SeaPearl of Barry Papke and I'm told this is hull number 11 and the very first production SeaPearl. Kilburn used to sell SeaPearls in the olden days.

And also back at the campground I saw Jonathan Redfern again packing up to go but he had this wild carbon fiber racing canoe also on the rack and I got him to take it down. It's home made! Weighed less than 20 pounds as I recall. No, I didn't try it but I take it you are expected to cover 8 miles in an hour with it for hours on end.

The last picture I have if of Paul Haynie bringing in his Vector (the boat with the tanbark sail. Paul put in at the ramp maybe three or four miles away with the idea of sailing to the messabout but on this nowind day he ended up rowing. He had the boat fitted the forward facing rowing gear and pulled all the way to the campground. A nice rig. I got to sail in it later in the day.

Currie Bishop was back again with his Summerbreeze skiff. He did an on purpose capsize test this year..

I am sure I have forgotten some people. One is Ron Vansaghi who brought a dory last year and brought it back this year as the center of a trimaran made with a Hobie cat (apparently another "just get it out of here" type of find) rig. He found the Hobie mast daunting and added a low lateen instead. Here is a photo of his dory taken last year...

And I just recalled a British lapstrake row/sail boat, perhaps the most "Woodenboat" boat of the fleet which arrived later in the meet. I will try to come up with a photo of if for the record.

Well, Mike Sandell decided to be a chef and brewed up the food on Saturday night. Thanks Mike!

I guess that's it. Great fun and thanks all for coming. See you next year.




Fatcat2 is still really a prototype boat even though I can show photos of a completed boat. What happened is that the builder, who is in his mid 80's, was taking the prototype to the lake to test when it was damaged in a road accident. It's been repaired but the boat is near Green Bay and it will be next summer before any testing can be done.

Fatcat2 is a cuddy cabin sailer patterned somewhat after a traditional catboat. She's the widest boat I've ever done, proportionally speaking, but lots of boat have been built to these proportions and my my Piccup Pram, which is almost similarly wide, certainly has no difficulties in rough going. The multichine bilges make a big difference and I wouldn't try a serious boat like this with a totally flat bottom. This boat has a short wide cockpit with benches that should be comfy for three adults. The cabin will be nice for a solo camp or a hide-out for two.

The mast is about the same length as the hull and steps in a tabernacle, both features should make for quick rigging. With a crutch or gallows to hold the struck rig you should be able to fold it all down without unhooking all those lines that a gaffer needs. I've seen it done on a Mudhen and it looks like Walter has rigged his Fatcat2 that way. If you look hard at the tabenacle in the photos you might make out that Walter also has rigged a winch to pull the mast up.

This boat is not ballasted. I did some paper studies of its stability which backed up my experiences in boat like this. They are usually most stable at about 20 degrees of heel, which might be the most heel you should sail at normally. Beyond that point the righting moment decreases until it reaches zero at about 50 degrees of heel and she'll go over. I'd expect her to lay high on her side because the rig is buoyant. Most likely you will have to parbuckle her upright with a rope if the leeboard is on the high side of the knocked down boat and out of your reach. I'd expect a rope or transom step will be needed to reboard the boat. The cockpit will take on a small amount of water but I'll bet she'll sail with it. A bucket is the only way to clear that sort of water, those pretty hand pumps being about useless. (Making Fatcat2 self righting in the usual way would mean making the belly twice as deep to float about 400 pounds of ballast, then add a self draining raised cockpit. A very different boat that some might prefer.)

Fatcat2 is built with taped seams and no jigs or lofting required. The plywood bill looks like four sheets of 1/4" plywood, fours sheets of 1/2", and two sheets of 3/4" plywood for a thick bottom.

UPDATE 2009,,,

Mike Sandell showed up at the 2009 Rend Lake Messabout with what I guess we can call the prototype Fatcat2. Here he is...

Mike wrote...

"I had the first launch of my Fatcat2, named the "Julia L." during the 19th Annual Midwest Messabout at Rend lake in Southern Illinois. This is the sailing report.

The "Julia L." sails very smoothly (at least in calm conditions). Tacking or jiibing was very brisk, and even in light winds I could come about in about five seconds. It was difficult to determine how close-hauled she could sail, as once again the winds were very light and variable. There was little tendency to heel in the light wind conditions that existed.

The polytarp sail was smooth, and required only a bit of tuning to hold a near-perfect shape. Handling the rigging was typical for a gaff-rigged boat, meaning more complicated than a balanced lug, but only during the initial tuning process. Lazy jacks were added the second day to keep the sail out of the cockpit.

Visibility over the cabin was restricted a bit by the raised cabin hatch, but this only blocks the view to 11 o’clock or 1 o’clock, depending upon which tack you are on. Because of the slightly raised bench seats I built, visibility straight forward from either side of the boat is fine.

The cockpit is so comfy that on one occasion I nearly fell asleep at the helm! She does have a wee bit of lee helm, but I think that adjusting the slot in the leeboard guard to allow a more vertical position for the board may cure this. Anyhow, I need to test her out in a wider variety of wind conditions to have a good feel for that aspect of her sailing qualities.

Some moderately brisk winds came up briefly on Sunday morning, and the boat seemed quite speedy in those conditions, although without a GPS I could not measure the speed. I do remember that on Saturday I was slower than the Family Skiff that was out on the lake, but a bit quicker than the Philsboat.


Construction of the "Julia L." took me a lot longer than it should have- nearly eighteen months. I really should have had the boat completed in time for the 2008 sailing season, but extended business trips and other commitments kept me from the project for long periods of time.

The boat is constructed of ¾" MDO on the bottom, ½" MDO on the bilge panels, foredeck and afterdeck, and ¼" " okume for the sides. Typical home improvement store lumber was used for the framing and rigging. Most of the hardware was purchased from Duckworks, with some coming from the local hardware store.

Assembly was typical stitch and tape, and the bottom of the boat also is armored with a full layer of 6 oz. fiberglass cloth and resin. Paint was a latex acrylic porch paint purchased at Ace Hardware, and the running rigging is all rope purchased at Menards, another home improvement store."

Another great job, Mike, and thanks much!

NOW, I gotta tell you that I sailed a bit with Mike and the boat struck me as being light with a really big sail, so don't skimp on the reef points!

Plans for Fatcat2 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.

This is Ted Arkey's Jukebox2 down in Sydney. Shown with the "ketchooner" rig, featuring his own polytarp sails, that is shown on the plans. Should have a sailing report soon.

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 a new Down Under Blobster, now rightside up for final finish. Looks like another beautiful job....

A view of the Caroline prototype showing a lot of the inside, crew on fore deck. Beautiful color:

I gotta tell you that on the Caroline bilge panels I made an error in layout and they are about 1" too narrow in places on the prototype plans. I have them corrected but it always pays, even with a proven design, to cut those oversized and check for fit before final cutting.

And a Family Skiff seen here at Rend Lake, report soon:

And a Deansbox seen in Texas:





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