Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15November) This issue presents Sail Oklahoma 2011, second installment. The 1 December 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.


Rasp in hand, Scott gets ready to rumble at Sail Oklahoma!



Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.




Sail OK 2011 b


It's the Puddle Duck Racer World Championships and racers from all around the world have gathered. After the morning feed we have a meeting...

I gotta tell you I was supposed to participate in this race but begged off. I've never raced but I know they have lots of rules. No point in my being a hazard to serious racers. I was supposed to race Mike Monies' new Catbox, but Tom Pamperin did the initial test flight and was going to race it. Here he is on Catbox test day taking one giant leap for mankind...

This the result of Catbox having a daggerboard. Everyone knows I prefer leeboards, which would mean just a small step for man, but thinking Catbox would get raced I opted for the daggerboard which should have less drag. Anyway, I wasn't positive about Tom's status as a race pilot and Rick showed up from Canada without a ride so he got final bid on racing the Catbox. I suppose Catbox got rerigged for the third time in two days as each skipper redid the sheet arrangement.

But I did test Catbox myself for an hour or so and thought it went quite well. The helm was right on I thought, no real need to use the fancy sweeping daggerboard feature, it went best with the board straight up and down. The sail was a David Gray polytarp and I thought it also was right on. The sail plan is supposed to be the same as the Sunfish although I may have gotten the dimensions wrong by a bit. You can buy new Dacron Sunfish sails on ebay for a reaonable amount (for a Dacron sail) if you wish. There are issues that all PDR's probably have. The fore/aft trim takes a lot of concentration to keep the ends out of the water. When going quickly the bow wants to bury so you ought to slide you weight aft to compensate. Oddly, the old "make the tiller too long" rule doesn't seem to apply to an 8' boat. Yes, it would make for steady steering but it will also be endlessly in the way. After seeing the other boats at the meet I still think the double side tank hull, like Catbox, is the way to go. Very strong and should ship no water in a knockdown. You can sit anywhere on the side boxes so you have infinite trim possibilities. I didn't invent this, I copied the idea from previous boats. And the center 2' of Catbox is wide open stem to stern and you can sleep there.

I still sell blueprints of Catbox for $25 but now a pdf file of Catbox, and others including John Welsford's PDR, are available for free download at pdracer.com. So go to it!


The committee boat was anchored about a half mile off shore and the marks were set such that the starting line was by the committee boat, then pretty much a beat straight into the wind to the first mark, then a left turn to reach to the second mark, and then another left turn to run to the committee boat again, then around two more times except the finish was at the mark at the end of the reach, so we could watch the finish from the beach.

The fleet launched, about 15 boats I think, and went to mill around near the starting line but in the gusty winds I think there was a capsize and maybe two dismastings. So the fleet got thinner. One of the dismastings turned out to be important.

Brad, last year's winner, was first around the first mark. Here he shows great PDR form, weight aft to keep the bow from plowing. Daggerboard up a bit on this reaching leg. He's reefed! (Brad's boat was voted Best PDR).

The photos may not be in order but here is Mitch, who finished second. Don't recall anything special about his boat, it even has a leeboard. A great job of sailing with no mistakes pays off.

Rick came by in the Catbox, looking young and sleek. He told me later he got caught on the wrong side of the starting line. That large sail cruiser is the committee boat, by the way, adjacent to the starting line.

There was a bit of a traffic jam at the first mark as all the guys tacking in different ways suddenly reassembled as a group at the buoy.

There were some heavy hitters in this group. John Welsford is in the green hull and Graham Byrnes is in the white hull with the Texas sail. Not sure who is leading them with that huge lug sail but you can see there that the PDR's like to bow down and bulldoze water when given the chance.

Here is Welsford again, in his own design. This must be a second lap photo as you can see trailing boats in the background.

To make the long story short Brad easily won. Mitch was second and Rick third. Complete results can be found at http://www.pdracer.com/world-championship-race/2011-participants/. But this was the first of three heats and there were surprises to come later.

ROUND 2...

Remember the dismastings? One was by Scott who had a used ebay windsurfer sail, ($42 says he and yes I checked them out on ebay) mounted on a GI surplus sectioned aluminum radio mast. I think it collapsed at one of the joints. He found a replacement in a fiberglass radio mast but it didn't quite fit. So with rasp in hand he made it fit and in a couple of hours had it ready, maybe, for the next heat. Here is a happy man with rasp in hand.

While Scott was rasping the rest of us were back at the estate eating again. I got this photo of Tom Pamperin fueling up...

Tom is teaching college English now and is in training for a marathon swim across Tampa Bay as I recall. So he is in training and here shows us how it's done. Let's see, a monster burger, empty juice pack, and that's a double size lemonade, empty Dorito bag, cookie, and I count four pieces of brownie cake (yummy!). I dunno if he ate that big acorn but why not! Now I know his big training secret.

Feeding done we reassembled at the beach...

I gotta tell you that looking back at these photos makes me appreciate the great weather!

At first Round 2 looked to be a repeat of Round 1 with Brad way ahead after that first windward leg...

Here he has rounded the first mark and is about half way to the second. Those boats in the background as still tacking to the first mark. Rick in the Catbox said he got turned around again, headed to the second mark by mistake, no doubt thinking he was getting way ahead of the fleet all the time, when he was really getting behinder.

As I recall Graham Brynes passed the second mark and started a unique line to the third. I thought it was strategy but later found it was a broken rudder.

Now the finish was pretty exciting as I recall. Scott, with the freshly repaired and untested windsurfer rig, caught and passed Brad at the next to last mark and looked to be an easy winner as only the reaching leg was left. But Brad's big lug rig started to eat him up. Scott had the upwind side, Brad was right behind and gaining, and right between was a boat being lapped. The lapped boat may not have known that the two leaders were charging up his stern but he did know he had to turn left around the buoy. So they all got there at once but Brad got pinched into the finish line buoy and Scott won! Exciting. Time for a beer.

ROUND 3...

I got this shot of Rick heading out to the starting line with probably a committee boat official.

I suppose by now the die was cast and attention spans were expiring. Shall I jump to the scene where we find out whodunnit? Scott won again and Brad came in second again. Welsford came in third, Mitch fourth and Rick fifth.


They add up the results of the individual heats and in the end, Brad was first overall, Mitch and John tied for second (although I notice in the official results that Mitch is listed as second and John third so I guess there are no ties in sail racing). So Rick got fourth, and Scott got fifth. (Remember Scott won two of the three heats but DNF'd the first heat.)

Well, that was exciting. I try to make some generalization about it all but really can't. The winning boats all had quite different sail rigs although one might think the windsurfer sail had the upwind edge. Some hulls might have been lighter than others but that was certainly true of the crew weights too. In the end I think sailor skill and luck told the tale. It was a lot of fun, too.


Let us not forget that while the racers were racing the rest of the world was still messingabout. And it was starting to get late. I could not begin to document all the boats that were there. But here are a few more...

One of the boats that started it all 30 years ago. A super classic. A true Bolger/Payson INSTANT BOAT! The Zepher! Sailed very well too. Thanks much!

So maybe you think I rounded up a barefoot boy, a pretty red haired girl, and a big red dog just to add charm to Gene's Skiff America! And that I made the photo a little bigger than the rest so show off Kilburn Adams' great design? Note Herreshoffe and Potter sailboats in the background, two very different approaches to boating.

And here's a pair of Storer Goat Island Skiffs. The green boat won "most colorful" I think it was called, and is a true veteran of several Texas200's. A close zoom on the yellow hull shows it came from California!

And remember this...

It's the "what's this" boat from last issue. IT'S A WA'APA, STUPID! You knew that, but I didn't. You would think they come from exotic Polynesia but this one is from nonexotic Iowa. Pretty clever in that it came in sections that bolted together. It went very well and was quite fast! Looks to have a tiller from out of this world. Here is sails off into the sunset.


of many thanks to the folks who put this on. Everything is done so well. I do want to give a special thanks to Jackie Monies who is the head honcho (and cook) of it all. Many thanks Jackie! Next year I won't make you stare into the sun for a photo.



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 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.....

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

And the first Brucesboat is in the water for testing. A full report soon.

OK, so he found a major league goof in my plans on fitting the bilge panels. He did some cut and fit and did a great job of salvaging the work, but I have corrected the drawing for the aft end of the bilge panel (I drew it in upside down!!)





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