Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(1March2011)This issue will rerun the rowing gear essay. The 15 March issue will rig a lugsail.



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.


Josh Davidson takes on a big cruiser with his Musicbox2. When I saw this photo I thought maybe both skippers would like to trade boats for a while at least.




Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.





I've been showing photos of Max Wawzyniak's Oracle prototype for the past few month. The project was done a while back but we were frozen in until about the first week of March. Then it all burst out then and we had a day in the 70'sF and it was time to launch. That particular day the wind was gusting to 30 and no testing was going to get done but it was a good day to take photos and also to set the boat up in the way I like to see it done.

We went to Washington County lake here in Illinois which is about a mile long and with many arms, steep hills around and a shallow launch ramp in a protected area. A very nice rowing lake.

The first thing I must say to those who are finishing a new rowing boat is to not install the rowlocks in the shop! I usually show a rowlock location on the drawing but that is just my best guess at the time I drew the boat. If you have a little patience you can get it just right the first time by following this essay.

Max unloaded his new Oracle and showed me his gear. He had made a low rowing seat, 3-1/2" high, and had some nice 8' oars. The seat looks low but you will usually have a cushion on top and this is a low sided boat. This seat turned out to be just right for Oracle.

Next the boat was placed in the water tied loosely to the dock. Max climbed in and we looked for the seating position that would provided a level boat.

Here he is too far forward and you can see that the bow is down and the stern is up. I might add that it really takes two people to get this just right - one to be the skipper, and another to watch for the correct trim since seeing the trim from inside the boat can be difficult.

Here he is too far aft. The bow is up and the stern is down:

Here he is with his weight located properly for a level boat. At this time he marked the seat location on the bottom of the boat so he could easily repeat the location in the future.

Sitting in the properly trimmed boat Max holds the oars comfortably and notes where they cross the wale.

At those points he places a large C clamp in position to simulate the rowlocks.

Now for a test row using those C clamps as thole pins. If the clamps are large enough you might pass the oar through the opening or you might tie the oars to the clamps. In this case Max was just careful to keep the oars against the clamps.

At this point you can shift things around. Once you find the best place for the oarlocks, note the position and install the lock sockets. In this case Max used common sockets mounted outside the wale. He screwed them into position for now, to replace the screws with small bolts in the future. (Screws have a bad habit of working loose at the worst time.) Sockets mounted outside the wale instead of inside? They function a lot better outside with no chafing on the wale but if you are using the boat as a tender then inside the wale might be better because there will be no metal to gouge the mothership.

Not quite done yet. A good rowing setup will also have cleats inside the hull against which you can brace your feet. It's not a big deal in calm conditions but for rowing hard, and in some conditions all rowing will be hard, the cleats will make a huge difference in the amount of force you can deliver to the oar.

Max didn't install his on his test day but the cleats can be about 3/4" square and 6" long and mounted in a comfortable position. Many rowing boats will have several cleats spaced maybe 3" apart to allow for different sizes of oarsmen. Here is a photo of the cleat in my old Roar2. It was meant to be a temporary fit and was plopped in place with a blob of Bondo. Still temporary after 12 years!

Perhaps just as good as a cleat is the arrangement that Rob Rohde-Szudy made for his Piccup Pram with a rope loop to the seat that captures a bracing bar that rests on the floor of the boat:




Can you walk this plank? Actually the request was for a stand up paddle board, sort of like a surf board that is paddled while you stand up like on a real surf board shooting the big waves in Hawaii.

I had all sorts of reasons for not designing it, the first being that I could never stand up on such a thing myself for more than a second or two. As a starting point I decided to take the bottom of a light dory, which is usually about this length and about 2' wide. It is generally held that you should never stand up in a light dory and my experiences confirm that. But it looks like the surfers are well ahead of us mortals in that respect and besides they expect to get dumped regularly and maybe the long double paddle offers a bit of stability, sort of like the poles the tightrope walkers use.

So I started with that bottom and added a little top, maybe 4" of freeboard which will not keep you very dry. I put just enough rocker to support 470 pounds before the bow and stern start dragging, enough for two people plus the weight of the hull usually. I can't see two people standing up on this at once but if they both sit it might be a fun wet boat for warm waters. The deck is supposed to be totally watertight, of course, so it will shed water like a duck and be low enough in the water for a swimmer to reboard.

I knew from the start it would not be light, at least not light enough to carry under one arm as they did in "The Endless Summer". Bolger had warned all of us long ago that decks weigh a lot, more than the bottom he said because they must be strong enough to take your weight with no water underneath pushing upward. So Paddleplank will indeed weigh about the same as a light dory. I figure 75 pounds if made with the usual 1/4" plywood, maybe 15 pounds lighter if the topsides are made with 1/8" ply. You can't really go thinner than 1/4" on the bottom and you need some thicker area where you stand, so it is hard to make it much lighter.

I wondered a bit about how Bruce Brown carried his surfboard around under one arm. Sure, he's a big hunk but even so there were expensive tricks involved. Let's say you need to float a 180 pound man on a board. Light wood weighs over 20 pounds per cubic foot, so if you totally immerse a cubic foot of that wood it will have about 40 pounds extra buoyancy, given that water weighs about 60 something pounds per cubic foot depending on where it is from. So you would need about 5 cubic feet of wood to float the man, or at least 100 pounds of solid wood. But then he would be just awash, so to give an inch or two of freeboard to go surfing would require even more. I suppose that is the situation with old time historic surfboards.

I googled around some surfboard history. The first hollow boards were made about 90 years ago and they first broke the 100 pound barrier, so my guess was pretty close. Then they went to balsa cored boards (Hey! Balsa is really a hardwood!) and got down to 60 pounds or so. Then post WW2 they went to fiberglass and foam, etc.

Anyway, after the google, I stopped feeling guilty about the weight of Paddleplank.

I'm thinking Paddleplank is too wide for a real surfer dude but would be a good plaything for the rest of us.

Anyway, three sheets of 1/4" plywood with the chines done with taped seams. I have it drawn for jigless construction but you might not get away with that since the sides will be so thin and limber. Thus I have also shown some dimensions to a "base line" so you could set up the initial construction on a ladder frame to hold it all true until the bottom is on.

Prototype Paddleplank plans are $20.


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....

Tom Wolf has completed the first Toon2 that I know of and was waiting for some good testing weather...





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