Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15June2011)This issue will cover the 2011 Rend Lake Messabout. The 1 July issue will be about rigging your trailer.



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.


BLAST OFF! Dave Brown and Son hang on to their new Catbox at Rend Lake.



Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.




Rend Lake 2011


...took place at the North Sandusky recreation area on June 10 and 11. I arrived towing my old AF4 on Friday before noon and found some of the boaters had arrived much earlier, maybe even on Wednesday, and were out already giving the lake a grand tour in the brisk winds we had that morning. My own boat had not been in the water yet this year due to near record flooding conditions at my usual haunt, Carlyle Lake, so there would be a brief period of remembering what's what. But launching went routinely and the old Sea King 15 started and ran on the fifth pull, a good sign. There was no one at all at the ramp then which I thought was odd. I motored slowly to the camp ground about a half mile away.

The Sandusky camping areas are on a large inlet, maybe 1 mile by 1/3 mile in size, surrounded by pretty tall trees (for Illinois) and all a no wake area although the jet skiers here seldom can read. So it is a great place for testing and using the smaller boats. Once you make it to the open lake then you can cut loose with maybe up to four or five miles of open water from causeway to dam, and if you can pass under the causeway bridges, there are more adventures to the north of it as that area is about as large but less open.

Anyway, at the camp ground mud beach were waiting some of the usual suspects and we got reacquainted. Some of the big boys were out sailing on the main lake. First boat underfoot at the campground was this 15' CLC, built by Tom Hamernik from tiny drawings in a book...

I got AF4 out in the inlet and set it up to drift through the fleet area so to speak for a chance for photos and a quiet talk as the other boats came out. The weather was quite nice. Rovie Alford came out with his new Harmonica, shown here with Phil Reed as passenger...

We will probably be talking about this one more in the future since his mods worked so well. In particular he added 2' to the stern in the form of a motor well which certainly made it much better for most of us. It is still just 12' long, 5' wide. It had no plexiglass in its windows and I suppose for a non sailboat that is fine. Screens might be a better choice, maybe with some snap on window covers for rainy or cold days.

The big boys were at that time returning from the open lake from a three hour brisk sail. Here is Dave Seaberg in his self designed Wind-I-Go...

Both Dave and Wind-I-Go are veterans of the messabout.

Next in was another veteran, Chris Feller with his Philsboat, complete with Tom Hamernik as figurehead...

Chris sleeps on his boat on the trailer in the campground complete with little airconditioner plugged into the campground power. Also returning from the open lake venture was Mike Sandell in his Fatcat2...

Mike figured he sailed 20 miles in those 3 hours, crossing the lake back and forth four times.

As they returned to the campground I joined them for a reunion. Walking around I see Phil Reed's 16' CLC, also built just from paper plans, no kit. Phil uses this on the Illinois River. Note the sliding carrying bracket that he uses to store it in his truck.


Friday's weather was quite nice compared to this spring's usual. I tied up AF4 on the mud beach to sleep in it. But what started as a quiet night ended with a grand WHOOSH around midnight as the front of a front arrived. It ripped my bimini and bent tent poles over at the adjacent camping loop. Not wanting to ride out a tornado in AF4 I bailed out to my truck for an hour or so. It never rained much actually. I returned to AF4 for a couple hours of sleep but was wakened again by mass thundering. Peeking outside I saw a bolt strike the campgound on the other side of the inlet, a half mile away, and I bailed out for a second time. When the immediate danger had passed I went back to AF4 but the thundering lasted all the way to day break. Not much sleep that night but that's the way it goes.

Saturday was for the most part a very fair day as you will see.


More folks were arriving. Kenny Giles brought his PDR down from Iowa. After he launched I relaunched AF4 for more photos and got him tacking out...

He quickly met up with another PDR ...

The other is now owned by Edith Helbert , once owned by Ken's brother Bill and it also had been to Rend Lake before. It is said to be PDR number 2.

Drifting around we met up with Harry Saftlas in his Bolger Junebug. Very simple and fast. Harry came to Rend Lake several messabouts ago with the best homebrew in the world. Glad to see him back.

More boats were launching so I drifted AF4 over to the ramp. I saw these fellows who have been coming to the Rend Lake messabout for several years. They weren't in our camping loop so I don't know names or details. We came to call this the Dorydhow...

It first showed up as just the center dory, looks like a beautiful job of a Bolger light dory made fancy, but it acquired a set of cast off catamaran floats after the dory seemed too tippy for the crew. Then it got the low lateen rig. No, it wouldn't go to windward, not as far as I could tell. But they never needed rescue either so they made it work.

While we were near the ramp this yellow thing flashed by us...

No time to chat as it was clearly heading out quickly but the fellow said both he and the boat were brand new. More on this one later.

Back near the campground we caught up with Currie Bishop in his Summer Breeze. Currie made a splash at Rend Lake a few years back with a canoe converted to sailing without a rudder. Control by weight shift and leeboard shift. It worked after a fashion but he went back to a tiller in the end with this boat.

Paul Haynie was in the water now too, with his Vector. This boat was originally built by Mike Sandell...

Note the rowing rig stowed on the stern. These are for forward facing rowing. Later Paul removed the rig and returned to the campground under oars alone. He says it pulls along at 4mph which is quite good for a sailing hull. When rowing a bit of ballast in the bow helps a lot, says he.

I saw the yellow flash pulled up on the campground mud so went to investigate.

That's my AF4 in the background, with the blown out bimini bound up out of the way. Anyway, this was Dave Brown and Son and there were sort of local. No, they had not sailed before and the boat had not been in the water except to briefly check or leaks. It was very well made, neat as a pin. The sail was a very well made polytarp sharpie sprit, complete with shaping darts. Hard to believe these guys were new. I looked it over closer...

It looked oddly familier although PDR's can all be that way since they are built to the same curve, or lack of them. But the rudder detail gave it away. It was my own CATBOX design! There were changes. There nearly always are. The rig was not the Sunfish sail shown in the plans, but the sharpie sprit is usually a better racer if you can deal with the long mast. The side boxes were skinnied from 12" wide to 8". And the daggerboard box was straight up and down and not the tapered box shown on the plans (which is supposed to allow the board to be swept back and forth for trim, but that is just theory). Well done! I took it out for a sail for a half hour or so. It went very well indeed so Dave and Son get five stars! Later his family joined us at the beach for more trips in the new boat.

Out on the lake everyone was launched and afloat. Here is Kilburn Adams in his SkiffAmerica (Kilburn designed it) with his son Mike taking a tour in the Bolger Teal which is fitted with a lug sail from an old Sea Pearl.

Kilburn was the first person I know to sail with lug sails around here, and leeboards too and I learned a lot from him. He was an early Sea Pearl dealer back then. One of his sales was SeaPearl no 11, now owned by Barry Papke who brought it to the messabout this year...

Barry also brought this classic...

It is a folding Folboat, more or less mint. Barry said it was mid 1980's, kept in storage since then with almost no use.

Back out on the water we saw Paul Helbert in his sailing canoe. This is a modified Storer design and I'm told the sailing details were worked out by Paul, (who is the dad of Edith Helbert with the PDR).

He said the sailing details were not in any plans as the designer felt the world wasn't ready for such a thing. Paul kept it upright OK, using sails sized small and smaller, but you can see by the large airtanks fore and aft that he was prepared for capsize at any time.

Also out there was regular Bill Dulin in his SkiffAmerica. Bill's boat is identical to Kilburn's and there is no telling them apart except to see the skipper. Both of these boats are widely traveled...

Next around was regular Steve Lewis who makes the long drive across Iowa. He brought back his Stevenson racing scow, fitted out with a lug sail and sporting a great paint job.

Steve also brought along a Butterfly scow that he picked up for $200 complete. Here he gives his daughter a sailing lesson in the Butterfly...

Joe Stromski was there too, complete with his clan and some borrowed clan. He brought the AF4 that made Woodenboat and used it for extensive swimming/fishing with the clan. On Saturday he added the Currie Bishop Clan to the mix and off they went for a long splash. Great use of a great boat! That is Abbie Bishop in the boat with the new Baby Bishop. I'm told Baby Bishop joined the swimmers later with tiny lifejacket.

Returning to the campground I noticed another wooden boat over in the next loop, part of the Dorydhow clan. This was an 11' Devlin design. A beautiful building job. These fellows also had another brand new boat which was launched and then quickly recovered as it has leak issues like new boats can have. Maybe we'll see it back next year.


Saturday always ends with a cookout, the only real planned event in the messabout and I can assure you the planning is minimal. Joe Stromski, fresh from Cubscout experience, volunteered to be cook. We took a quick head count and Chris Feller and I made a quick trip to the Benton Walmart for burgers and dogs and buns and brickettes for all. Side dishes appear like majic on the picnic table....

A great feast and time for lots more yarns and gams and gabs into the night.

Sunday almost everyone scoots out early with a long drive ahead.


It was quite a great time, wasn't it. SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!




Tom Raidna's Toto

The photo above is from Tom Raidna.

Toto has been my most successful design. Initially she was an experiment to test a new bow shape - a deep V bow that blends into a multichine well aft. There's a twist in the bow bilge panels and at the time I didn't know how to expand those panels on the drawing board. So I built her without them and then sized them by cut and fit. Then I recorded the shapes on the prints. Nowadays this sort of twisted paned expansion is routine on a computer to great accuracy (provided the input is accurate).

The boat is an easy prefab job from two sheets of 5MM ply. Marc Smith came to the 1994 Midwest Messabout with tow of these Totos strapped to the roof of his Birdwatcher. They were built by two twelve year old girls under Marc's guidance. Marc said the girls did all the work including using the power tools. And they paddled around the Messabout in them.

It's fun to compare Toto with the typical minimal dink because they usually come from the same pile of stuff and labor. Toto covered the 6000 foot long dam at Carlyle lake in 14 minutes with a moderate paddling effort for 4-1/2 mph. She's more seaworthy but she's wetter when pressed because of paddle splash. She has a buoyancy/storage chamber aft. It will keep your shoes and stuff dry while you splash around and I believe it has about 180 pounds of buoyancy volume if the hatch cover stays watertight. (But you can't "self rescue" in any boat like this without very special training. It's best to stay within a short swim or wade to shallow water.) The open cockpit is large enough to allow sleeeping inside, as I have done many times. She's shaped for easy cartopping. In good conditions she'll paddle two adults. The long lean bow seems to ignore an overload, unlike plumb bows which can become cranky when immersed. She'll take you through some very rough stuff if you are solo. But the dinks have their place too. They can have sailing stability and many will find their elevated seating more comfortable. By the way, a boat like Piragua with a simple wide flat bottom won't be as fast or as seaworthy as Toto, but you might be able to stand up in Piragua. Don't expect to do that in a boat like Toto.

I've rounded up some more Toto photos. Here are three by John Mulligan on Long Island. These three and Raidna's look to me to be build per blueprint. (I'd sit a little farther forward myself.)

Mulligan's Totos

Dale Dagger rides a wave in Nicaragua in his Toto.

Here is Bob Hoffert's Toto in Ohio, maybe the first boat after mine. Looks like he has added a fore deck and put a big access hole in the aft bulkhead. (Remember that the aft storage box is also supposed to be an emergency buoyancy air box to help save your butt in a capsize.)

Hoffert's Toto

Here is John Ellwood's Toto in Massachusetts. Crowned fore and aft decks and another access hole in the aft bulkhead, although this one appears to have a cover.

Ellwood's Toto

Here is Garth Battista of Breakaway Books with a small foredeck and some good company:

Here is Don Duquet with good company getting ready to watch a space shuttle launch:

Here is Bob Cole's delux Toto, totally decked with watertight storage in both ends way up in northern Canada:

And the fanciest Toto ever by Dean Souza in Washington, with watertight storage fore and aft, fancy coamings, cleats and line chocks, even the national flag flying on the stern!

Souza's Toto

Bob Hoyle in Florida:

And Al Fittipaldi (New Jersey) made this Toto and got a picture of it in Woodenboat magazine!

And Amanda in Barry Johnson's Toto in South Carolina. He has a Toto construction website at Barry Builds Toto

And Bill Turnbull's Toto on the Florida gulf coast:

And Stephen Dandridge's Toto delux out in California:

And we think this is Terry Lesh's Toto delux (seen at a boat show out West):

And here is one by Don O'Hearn of St. Louis, photo from the 2002 Rend Lake Messabout:

And Al Straub's Toto in Michigan:

That is all I can find photos for right now. I'm sure there are more.

Plans come with complete instructions including the details of taped seam construction and a drawing of a simple paddle that works. (Marc Smith's girls used double paddles made from old vaulting poles with plywood blades bolted on. I tried their boats and paddles and they were quite good.) No jigs or lofting required.

Blueprints plus instructions for Toto are $15 when ordered directly from me.


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 out West.

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.

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.....

Jackie and Mike Monies of Sail Oklahoma have two Catboxes underway....

And the first D'arcy Bryn is ready for taping. You can follow the builder's progress at http://moffitt1.wordpress.com/ ....





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