Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15June10)This issue will be about the 2010 Rend Lake meet. The 1 July issue will complete AF4 rebottom 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.


We gather again at Rend Lake.




Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.




Rend Lake 2010


...took place at the North Sandusky campground on June 11 and 12. I don't believe anyone was turned away at the campground, we were able to place everyone with a campsite if needed. Although it is billed as a Friday and Saturday event (crazy boat traffic can make it difficult on Sunday) several folks arrived on Thursday to get a jump on the rest of us. As I drove across the lake's causeway on Friday about noon I could see little white sails to the south that usually reveals the beginnings of our messabout. Let's see, weather on Friday was hot and humid, overcast with predictions of doom that did not materialize in our area (they did elsewhere). It was breezy and gusty too with whitecaps crashing the causeway.

(Note that I hope to upgrade photos and maybe my weak memory in coming weeks so you might reload this essay in a month or so.}

When I got to the gate I found myself behind another AF4, a beautiful red one which I instantly recognized to be the subject of Rob RZ's great Woodenboat article from last winter. Chocked full of camping gear, wife and two kids (one borrowed) down from the Milwaukee area and driven by Joe Stromski.

A quick drive around the second loop of the campground showed many people there. I arranged to park my truck and trailer and went back to the launch ramp to put my AF4 in the drink with the idea of sleeping aboard it for two nights. The lake was down a couple of feet from last year as you will see. Lots of mud to slip in this year. A short motor to the camp area and AF4 was aground, not to be moved for a while.

That is Currie Bishop's SummerBreeze skiff next to mine. He has a new sail this year.

Paul Ellefrit's son brought his sleek CLC kayak...

...and Paul brought his Family Skiff...

Also on the shore then was this neat Toto ("Miss Trippi of Potts County") which turned out to be by Kenny Giles

Ken also brought his PDR "Uke N' Sail", Ken shown here with his brother Bill. When I saw this PDR I did a double take because it was almost identical to the Catbox design I drew up this winter and I'm pretty sure Uke was in my subconsious when I did that work. My boat is 15" deep with 12" wide side boxes and Uke is 16" deep with 10" wide side boxes. Uke had a sharpie sprit sail on this weekend although it has other rigs too. And a leeboard. On Saturday I got to take Uke out, my first sailing in several years I think and first ever in a PDR. Mike had told me that vast experience had shown PDR's want to be sailed flat and I got the same impression very quickly. Although the boats have vast buoyancy the transoms actually skim the water pretty closely so if you make the effort to "fly a chine" as you would in a sharpie with great benefits, with a PDR you will likely bury the transom corners both fore and aft I think and get no speed benefit at all or worse. Also fore and aft trim needs watching, by shifting your weight back and forth, to keep both transoms out at the same time. A great little idea and boat I thought.

A gaggle of kayaks paddled up to the AF4. I've forgotten names as usual. The boat on the left is plywood but the boat on the right is a copy of a Greenland skin boat, in this case the skin comes from a Nylon animal. I had a good close look at it while it was on the cartop. It has brown paint on the nylon so it it looks like wood but 't ain't. A cool scratch built project. Both of these used traditional slender wooden paddles.

And here is another interesting project by Johannes Schol. This is a modern take on the garvey boxes from Chapelle's books. Sailed as good as it looked. Named "Bisquit and Garvey".

Mike Sandell was back with his Fatcat2 but now with an old Johnson 3hp and a gallows and a new sail and a few other changes that don't show. Lots of miles on this boat now. Mike gave lots of rides.

Beside him was Chis Feller's Philsboat, now a vet of four Rend Lake messabouts. Chris takes his boat out each night and sleeps in it trailered in the campground, sometimes with an AC blocked into the front of the cabin. A good boat to hitch a ride on...

And beach crashing into the same area, avoided all the felled trees, Phil Reed arrived in his Bolger Cartopper. He has used this boat for several years, sailed it all over Rend Lake even in blowy conditions. Normally he uses it on the Illinois River so he is used to some weird sailing...

There was another gaggle of boats on the other side of the loop, the center beach of the loop being reserved for a flotilla of broken trees this year. You can see the Ellifrit boats and Joe Stromski's AF4 plus a plastic kayak and PDR both brought by ??? (somebody help me here).

Next up was Rovie Alford's Piragua18, except he confessed it is really a 17 after a layout mishap during building. Nobody noticed but a lot of folks will take a try at paddling a boat like this since they are kind to first timers...

This plastic Catyak was back again although I think it almost sailed off to the sunset this year with a rudder failure...

It is the boat of Phil Frohne who also brings each year this Uncle John's Skiff, shown here with full crew...

In the background you can see some of the Skiff America bunch. Here is another shot...

You can see the downed tree situation we had this year. Anyway, the two on the left belong to Kilburn Adams, the Skiff America designer, Bill Dulin and the white boat is By Miller's, I think. There was a fourth Skiff America there but I didn't get a photo of it.

Messabout regular Steve Lewis brought a new Stevenson Lake Scow, with modifications. He makes the long drive each year from Iowa...

And regular Dave Seaberg brought his Windigo boat, designed by hisself and full of neat details and a great all around boat. Dave promises something "very unusual" for next year.

Actually Paul Ellefrit brought along this great CLC Sassafras canoe too. Quite a builder...

And here is another new PDR being fitted with a new rig. I've forgotten the builder's name so need some help again. Funny I can remember everything about him, where he works and lives. My name bank must have filled up a long time ago.

Almost forgot to mention that Saturday's weather was some of the finest ever. A good breeze out in the main lake that could be a challenge but not so bad in the cove to keep a novice like me away from a PDR. Sunday morning was dead calm, perfect for the paddlers and away I went for a lake loop in my AF4. A good idea to get off the lake and head home on Sunday before noon which is when the jet skiers wake up.

Saturday's feast was cooked by Joe Stromski. A veteran of the cub scouts he was complete with his camp kitchen and special knowledge like how to cook beans right in the can. Thanks Joe! We only had one real rain during the weekend and it luckily came right after dinner leading to a very rapid clearing of the leftovers, which is also wonderful.

I want to thank all the folks who attended. Many drive long distances with full packs, a sacrifice. It really was a great weekend and all went smoothly. Except now I must deal with the bug bites.




Every now and then I draw up a sailboat with a centerboard. A boat with a centerboard can have a prettier rig sometimes because the rig does not have to be centered over the hull's widest beam, as it does with a leeboard boat. But the sail area still has to be right above the centerboard for the boat to balance well. In Vector's case, the widest hull beam is 10' aft and the centerboard is between 4' and 8' aft. And that is the downside of the centerboard - it takes up some the prime space inside the hull.

Some designs will skimp on the centerboard size in order to take up less prime space but the result of that will always be more leeway when sailing to windward. In round numbers the area of the board that moves through the water needs to be about 4% of the sail area to efficiently counteract the full side force of the sail. Essentially the centerboard "flies" through the water in the same way that an airplane's wing flies through the air. True, water is about 900 as dense as air but things conspire to keep the centerboard from getting 900 times as much force from a given area. First the centerboard cannot develop a really high lift coefficient since it must be symmetric in cross section in order to operate on both tacks, unlike a soft sail which can be shaped with camber to reach a Cl of 1.5 in a good sail and maybe 2.0 in a great sail. Worse yet is the fact that the centerboard will flow through water at a fraction of the wind speed, and if your boat is beating to windward at 3 knots in a 15 knot wind, the 4% rule works out almost exactly. That is the worst case - beating to windward especially in rough water. If your boat were to hit a big wave and slow down below 3 knots, or if the centerboard were undersized to start with, the board will "stall" and develop no more lift no matter how much angle of attack (leeway to a sailor) you demand of it. The only solution would be to "fall off" the wind, pick up more speed, and try again just as an airplane pilot needs to recover airspeed after a stall.

Vector was inspired by the 12' Skat. It will be a much better family boat than Skat because of its greater capacity. Two adults and two kids would do it. There is a huge water tight storage volume behind the cockpit. The transom is quite wide and will take a small motor on a bracket mount, or you might try building in a motor notch to one side.


She's V bottomed as you see. Should be fast and handy, better than a flat bottomed boat although she will be a bit tippier and draw a bit more water than the flat bottomed boat.

There are two prototype Vectors that I know of. The first was by Peter Mohylsky down on the Gulf Coast (hope it is still there).

I never heard much of that boat but the second by Mike Sandell showed up at the 2006 Rend Lake Messabout much to my surprise (I had to ask what it was) and I got to talk to Mike and see it sailing for two days. Mike has a website at http://www.geocities.com/michsand@sbcglobal.net/ (archived copy) where the building is well covered. He was still quite new to the boat but especially on the second day, after he had tweaked the lines on his polytarp sail, he had no trouble sailing and sometimes leading the fleet.

I asked Mike to write a bit about the experience and he responded:

"My Vector was built over a period of five months in 2005, beginning in March of that year. The wood used was AC grade plywood purchased from the Menards home improvement store, with framing purchased both at Menards and Home Depot. The large pieces were cut to shape using a table saw with the blade set to a shallow cut. Small pieces were cut with a sabre saw.

"The glue used in the project was Titebond III, produced by Franklin International. which is an ANSI/HPVA Type I waterproof glue. Clamping of parts on the project was accomplished using a combination of deck screws and PVC clamps.

"Parts were cut in my basement workshop, and assembly was done in the garage. Taping of the seams was accomplished using marine epoxy and fiberglass tape purchased from Chuck Lienweber at Duckworks Boatbuilders. Two layers of tape were applied to both the inside and outside of all seams. Filling was done using both epoxy filled with wood flour, and also polyester auto body filler, depending upon the application.

"The boat was finished using an oil-based alkyd primer and oil-based industrial enamel, also purchased at Menards. Brightwork was various types of moulding pieces, held in place with stainless steel wood screws and stained with a Minwax water-based light oak stain. Final finishing of the brightwork was done using Johnson's Paste Wax.

"Fittings were all purchased from Duckworks. Running rigging is all braided nylon line from the home improvement stores, except for the mainsheet, which is twisted polypropylene, which is easier on the hands than nylon cord. The sail was made using a kit from Polysail International, and was completed in a single day, as advertised. The working lines for the sail are both led to cam cleats on the rear top end of the centerboard box. The mainsheet goes through a traveller mounted on the rear deck, and from there through turning blocks on the underside of the boom and finally to a block on the back of the centerboard box. The rig includes a boom vang, and the boom sets on the mast about fifteen inches above the deck when the sail is properly set.

"My boat includes four minor departures from the plans. The first is centerboard box. The plans call for cutting the bottom of the box to fit the curve of the hull bottom, setting the box on top of the hull, and then glassing it in place. I didn't see any way that I would successfully cut the box to precisely match that curve, so instead I cut the bottom slot wide enough to fit the centerboard box through it. I then glassed it in place from the inside, carved and sanded the protruding end of the centerboard box to match the outside curve of the hull, and then glassed the outside edges to finish the installation.

"The second change was in the seats. I'm a fairly big guy, and found that changing sides during a tack or jibe was difficult due in part to the limited foot space between the seats. The original seats were fourteen inches wide, and I replaced these with twelve-inch wide seats. The extra four inches made a huge difference for me.

"The third change was in the jaws for the boom. On a windy day last summer (before I had installed the boom vang) I broke the jaws while running downwind. Rather than build a new, long set of jaws, I cut off the broken set short, and then just used a longer cord to wrap around the boom. The cord is waxed to help ease movement, and does not carry any parrell beads. This has worked fine for me since then.

"Lastly, I did not construct my gaff and boom from laminated lumber as specified in the plans. Both are banister rail pieces purchased at Home Depot. The piece used for the gaff felt stiff and heavy, and was used as-is. The piece for the boom felt less robust to me, and got another piece of wood laminated to the flat surface on the bottom. I think I cut that one a bit too low, however, and it still worried me a bit. I plan on making a new boom this winter, which will have a deeper piece glued to the bottom of the railing to produce a "keyhole" shaped boom, similar to the T-booms seen on other small wooden boats.

"My Vector was named "Valkyrie", in homage to my Swedish ancestry on my father's side. Because of the gaff rig, it takes a bit more tweaking of the sail to get things just right than on simpler rigs. But once set, she really screams. "Valkyrie" accelerates very quickly on reach, and will point nearly as high as a sloop rig. But if the sail is not set properly, she'll flutter and stall in a heartbeat. Really keeps me on my toes! The only additional change I feel the boat needs is a longer tiller for single-handed sailing. Other than that, she is a joy to sail, and was worth every last minute put into her creation.

Taped seam construction. She needs four sheets of 1/2" plywood and six sheets of 1/4" plywood.

Plans for Vector 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 Battista's of www.breakawaybooks.com, printer of my book and Max's old outboard book and many other fine sports books. Beautiful job! 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. But he has used it extensively on his Bahamas trip towed behind his Cormorant. Sort of like having a compact car towed behind an RV.

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

And here is another making I think its maider voyage in the Texas 200. (I'm told the Chinese rig will be replaced by the blueprint rig.)

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 Deansbox seen in Texas:

A Twister gets launched, tightrope walking down a slippery trailer tongue with freezing water just below, I've been there too. Used for now as low powered boat, awaiting its sail rig. Nice job!





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