Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15November10)This will complete the Sail Oklahoma 2010 messabout. The 1December issue will rerun the taped seam 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.


Garth Battista, of Breakawaybooks.com, trailered Cormorant to New England this time, complete with family.




Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.




Sail Oklahoma b


Well, first there was the great breakfast buffet in Mikes Boat Palace work shop.

Jackie and Mike made a great effort to get as many Puddle Duck Racers as possible to attend Sail Oklahoma. I think there were 13 or 14 on site on Sunday morning and maybe a few more arriving later in the day and on Monday although by that time others had already started home. I think part of the plan was to get enough together at once to qualify for next year's world championships. Anyway, a short walk down to the beach showed this...

All sorts of rigs and colors but keep in mind they all have the same lower hull shape. Here are some more...

Looks pretty early still with very light winds. It was about at this time that Gene took his new Piccup Pram out for its and his first sail. You can't get in much trouble in that wind, says I. And so it was.

The Duckers were going to have a real race. They had some other boats go out and anchor to define the course. I was on shore, too far away to get a meaningful photo. They mill about as racing sailboats do before the start and then THEY'RE OFF!! One boat lost its mast. I think there were some stumps just under the water out there that may have been a factor. But Brad in a Storer hull with a huge polytarp balanced lug rig with a 16 to 1 tack line tackle easily outpaced the fleet and won.


Right here might be a good time to present some thoughts about racing in general. It seems to me that almost any sport that involves mechanical gear is hard to sustain over time. Any sort of racing, boats, cars, airplanes, and other sports like maybe shooting sports all have this problem. This is how I figure it. Someone makes up a new "class" that is supposed to be affordable and fun to everyone. Folks rush in and have a lot of fun. But in general only about ten percent can "win" both because of natural abilities and the inclination to advance their equipment. The equipment advances, even if the basic idea behind the gear is simple and cheap, and in a season or two a fellow realizes he can't afford to keep up with the Jones's and drops out of competition. Each year a few more drop aside. Eventually the hard core get control of the class totally in that they start making the rules. And by then the competitors are all pretty good but there aren't many of them. Thus at Carlyle Lake, near me, the huge fleets of Sunfish are no more. No more fleets of sailing surfboards either and Dave Carnell once sent me a Wall Street Journal article about that failure. The article said that sailing surfboard technology advanced so quickly to keep up with the needs of the racers that after about 5 years it was impossible to buy a beginner's board, and apparently a good racing board is quite difficult to learn on. Anyway, the sport crashed, at least around here.

I think by tradition "one class" sail racing has relied on very strict control of the equipment to the point where you must buy your hull from this guy only and your sails from that guy only, and that usually doesn't make for an inexpensive sport. PDR's aren't there yet but I don't think any other class ever avoided the problem. It is supposed to be a cheap build your own boat thing but I don't see how you could avoid the situation where someone say makes a mold and starts producing carbon fiber hulls that fit the rules. Or something like that, where it fits the rules but is quite expensive and with a technical advantage. As for hull costs it would be quite easy to control by putting a generous minimum weight on a hull, say 100 pounds or maybe even more so that a fellow could build a solid hull from ordinary 1/4" plywood. Fancy superlight hulls would not be obsolete since they would have to carry weights to make up the difference. But the sailrigs would be another story, much more difficult to govern.

To me the only solution is to use the "claiming race" setup where anyone can buy any boat in the race before a competition for a set price. So let's say we do that with a $500 claim price. No one would spend over $500 building anything, or actually anything close to that in reality. This is done in horse racing apparently all the time. I've read it was done in sportscar racing in the 1960's. I first saw the idea in my youth when some were trying to prevent an arms race in gokart racing, but that sport crashed too. The claiming race idea is not something that could be started after the racing experts have gained control.

I don't see how any sport requiring equipment can avoid this problem. To the point where I think the only solution is for the promoter to keep a close eye on the stage of development and just when the thing is about to burst expensive, invent a new class. Well, PDR's probably aren't there yet. I don't get involve in PDR forums and such and don't know what folks are thinking. So I'll step off the soapbox...


...sailing the Welsford PDR that Mike Monies had built. It was in light winds, no chance of going over for that reason. PDR's really are fun to sail. This one responded instantly to the tiller, spinning right around from tack to tack, in smooth water at least. By my limited experience in this fine Welsford boat and some in Ken Giles PDR at Rend Lake these hulls can be a bit of a balancing act but not in the usual sense that you are trying to keep upright in a tippy boat. These aren't tippy but the bottom rocker is perfectly planned such that you can only sit in about one place to keep the transoms from either pushing water at the bow or pulling water at the stern. I suppose in normal goofing off it doesn't matter. But I would think perfect form would require the trimming act, made more difficult by any ability to actually see the transoms from the skipper's seat. It might be done mostly by sound and watching the wake. But what do I know.


... This proved to be quite entertaining to those of us on shore. It's the reason Jackie had that handful of ducky trophies...

The idea was originally to turn loose a fleet of rubber duckies and have the PDR skippers gather them afloat with simple cheap bait nets that were provided, but eventually it was realized that marshmallows floated just as well and would dissolve after a good while and not leave cleanup problem. So marshmallows it was. The light winds helped...

Even so some guys reefed since speed meant little and quick easy safe maneuverability meant a lot...

Here Kenny Giles shows proper form with the dip net but I think later, as equipment failure took its toll, it was found that a dip net with its handle broken off was a better device.

I don't recall who won but I know staying out as long as possible meant a lot since, as competitors came in with their catches, Jackie would rerelease them to the wild, thus providing more catches for those still agathering. It was a lot of fun.


...there was more boat swapping and swamping going on. Here Kenny Giles tries out Stan Roberts' Piccup. And in the distance you might make out the only crash I was aware of. A new sailor had capsized Mike's take apart dinghy and with no buoyancy tanks there was no getting it upright. The Elegant Punt is sailing to the rescue but could only supply moral support. Eventually a SkiffAmerica came to gather up the swamped boat and swimmer.

Another picnic lunch overlooking the home beach this time. Folks were loading up their boats and heading home. This lake didn't get the Sunday afternoon traffic that we've seen at Rend Lake, which makes it somewhat important to get off the water by noon on Sunday. Still here new boats were arriving in the afternoon as owners who couldn't get the weekend off showed up for Monday. What's this? A new PDR still with wet paint and its sail rig never fitted before.

But most of us were flagging so it was back to the Monies spread for the supper buffet. Was that three different kinds of cobbler? More long chats and off to sleep.


...and it's time to go for me. Mike drives me a ways north and we meet his kin for a quick lunch and then I am handed off for the drive home.

That's Michelle at the wheel now, Brandon flopping down in the back seat. The three dogs are still behind that fence. I forgot where our gear all went. Up to St Louis at flank speed now. I learn from Michelle all about the casino business in St Charles, Mo. I've learned three new careers this weekend. Approaching home their gps gadget picks the scenic way home through the darkness but that is OK. Then back into my truck for the final miles home. Finally the weather changes from perfect all weekend to driving through a squall line.


... I certainly learned the meaning of "Southern Hospitality"!



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. 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:

The prototype Twister gets a test sail with three grown men, a big dog and and big motor with its lower unit down. Hmmmmm.....





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