Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15August 2012) This issue will take a brief break from the hull assembly series to give some Olympic Thoughts. The 12 September issue will continue with making an "instant" boat (originally aired on 15 Feb 2002).



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.


That's not snow! That's the white sands of the Florida Gulf Coast and Ted Major's new Robote.



Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.



Olympic Thoughts


I thought it was quite a thrill. My congratulations to the folks who pulled it all off without a hitch, at least without any hitches visible on NBC television. (The only "hitch" I recall seeing was on the underwater camera in the women's volleyball pool where someone nearly got her swimsuit pulled off, but I thought that was a nice hitch.)

I followed some events as closely as I could on the network TV which showed a lot but not all. As I watched I started to wonder just how fast some of the atheletes were and started taking notes and running some numbers. Not all are about boats or water but I think are worth noting just to see how exceptional some of these people are.


I can assure you from lots of personal experience that most of you will walk at 2mph, maybe 3 if you are in a hurry, or 4 if you are also scared. But faster requires special technigue nad most folks will start to trot or jog rather than walk with the special techniques. So a slow jog is about 6 mph and a fast jog is about 8mph and after that you are really starting to run. If you can run say 10 miles in an hour you are getting up there and will win longer local road races. Now, nobody in London was that slow. The men's marathon, 26 miles over city streets, was won with about a12.5mph average, the women's marathon winning speed was about 11.5 mph. That is about as fast as a good weekend cyclist will cover the same distance. And at shorter distances the Olympians go a lot faster. The men will do the 1500, the metric mile which is 100 meters short of our usual statute mile, at about 16 mph and the women about 14 mph. And the sprinters are really flying. When a fellow runs 100 meters in 9 seconds he is averaging 25 mph! I can tell you I once, in my youth and on a very good bike, pedaled at max effort for a short stretch and how fast did I go? I got it up to 25 mph and no faster. I noticed in one interview that the 4x100 relay runners have the problem in the baton handoff of matching speeds during the handoff, one guy going 28 mph is trying to get the baton to his team mate who can accellerate to 19 mph in the handoff zone. So you'd think there are folks who can sprint 30 mph! I also recall hearing there is no point in breathing in such a sprint since it takes 20 seconds for air you breathe to get from mouth to the blood stream. By the way, on the other end of the running spectrum and not in the Olympics, are folks who run on roads and trails for really long distance and they, both men and women, can cover over 150 miles in 24 hours. Just try it!


Didn't get to watch as much of this as I wanted to but time trial specialist, riding on city roads by themselves, can cover over 30 miles in an hour (even though I could only do 25 for a few seconds). I know the world record for distance covered in an hour on a bicycle was over 36 miles years back.


Me, I don't really swim. I don't float, not on top of the water at least, without a life vest. So I only do the panic stroke for short distances which is why you never see me doing long and dangerous boating adventures.

But some folks are born to swim and I took some notes of the London racing. First some background which goes with the boating we do here. If you have a good rowing boat, or paddling canoe, and you are in good shape and have some experience to go with it, you will find yourself moving at about 3 mph easily, 4 mph less easily, and 5 mph with great effort. But we aren't Olympians. So I watch Olympic swimming I see this. The 50 meter free style, which must be the all out drag race of swimming, is over with in 21 seconds for an average of 5.4 mph! I recall that these swimmers do the length with just one head turn for a breath in mid sprint. The women are a bit slower, 24 seconds for 4.7 mph.

Like the runners, there are lots of different swimming races as far as length goes and things slow a bit but not as much as you might think. At 100 meters the women slow to 4.3 mph average. And at a half mile, 800 meters, they slow to just 3.6 mph average which is probably what you would do in a good rowing boat over the same distance. Then on to a mile where the men average 3.9mph. And then on to the "open water" 10K, 6.2 miles although I didn't think the it looked too much like "open water" on the small sheltered lake they used. Still, the water temp was low, and the swimmers had to "navigate" lots of turns, with a quick stop or two for food. But the men did the 10K swim in 1 hour 50 minutes, 3.4 mph, and the women in 2 hours, 3.1 mph. You would be pressed a bit to stay with them in a good general purpose rowing boat.


Here I am going to review the racing that was done in the very prepared course at Eton Dorney, a long long wide ditch really, which must be a couple of miles long. Perfectly straight of course. It was still open enough to have wind effects but of course no rolling whitecaps. Here is a photo of it before the big grandstands were installed:

The canoes they use go by the names of C1 for a single seater, C2 for a two seater, and C4 for a four seater, although these canoes have no seats. Here is a C1...

Here is a C2...

And another C2 photo...

And a C4 photo...

(I suspect there is such a thing as a C3 too.)

I did some research on the hulls used here. They have a maximum allowed length and minimum allowed weight. For C1 those are 17.3' and 35 pounds, for C2 21.7' and 44 pounds, and C4 30' and 66 pounds. They hulls aren't supposed to have any "concave lines" as you might see in delux rowing boats but otherwise I don't recall any rules regarding beam or construction. (By the way, having a healthy minimum weight can go a long way towards insuring a strong and less expensive machine. Very easily measured and enforced of course.) But if you look at these photos you might get the impression that I got that these are strictly racing machines, not for the casual boater. Their speeds are way beyond the casual rowboat of course. Over 1000 meters, about .6 miles, the one man C1 sped for 3:52 for an average of 9.7 mph. The larger four man C4 did that distance in 3:33 for 10.7 mph. Probably not worth the extra 3 men, you might think, given the crew arguments and fights that might break out. By the time you organized three good crew men to go with you the C1 fellow would have easily passed the finish! All the work is done kneeling with a paddle the size of a corn scoop.


Very much organized like the canoe racing, but with K1, K2 and K4 designations. The size and weight limits are quite similar with K1 limits at 17.3' and 26 pounds, K2 at 21.7' and 40 pounds, and K4 at 36.7' and 66 pounds. It's a bit interesting that the kayaks are allowed to be lighter than the canoes even though they must be decked. Again there were no rules about beam or materials that I recall. These are not supposed to be "sit on" boats, instead you are supposed to "sit in". But looking at the racing and the following photos it seems that they are somewhere in the middle. They are simply too narrow for anyone to get his legs into, I think. I'm guessing they are about 20" wide, a fanny width plus a couple of inches. Some guys use spray skirts and some don't. The kayaks are allowed to have rudders. When they paddle you can see their legs pumping although I don't know if that has anything to do with steering, maybe it is just delivering power to the foot braces. Here are some K1s...

And a K2...

And a K4...

They seemed a bit more civilized than the racing canoes, maybe less likely to tip over for one thing (I saw no one tip over anything on my TV even though they have to start from a standstill.) The kayaks are a bit faster too. The K1 covered 1000 meters in 3:28 for an average of 10.7 mph, the K2 in 3:13 for 11.6 mph, and the K4 in 2:55 for 12.9 mph. Pretty fast! To put it in perspective a 22' displacement boat might be expected to have a "hull speed", which is sort of a maximum without planing of about 7 mph. These guys are 50% over that although they clearly aren't planing. But long narrow hulls don't obey those usual hull speed rules, thus fast none planing catamarans.


The Olympic rowing racing was done at the Eton Dorney facility, both men and women. As with the canoes and kayaks these are very special boats called "shells", very long and narrow. I couldn't easily find how long and narrow but I know the longest boats, which can hold eight big men and their cox skipper, a total of nine, are on the order of 60' long. There seems to be no rule for beam so I guess it is about a fanny and a few inches, no more than 2' wide I'd say. I do know the hull cross section is more or less a U, that is to say a half circle on the bottom which will offer no stability. (I think they have a small fin or two on the bottom.) They say the stability that prevents capsize is in the use of the long oars and one would think that getting one in the water and loaded and ready to go would hardly be automatic. Here is a photo of some two place boats and note that in the distance they are loading up while braced against the dock:

They are two types of oars used, "sweeps" which are one to a man and very long thus a two man boat will have two sweeps, two on each side staggeredas shown above. I think a boat like this is simply called a "pair".

But the very same hull can apparently be rigged to use four oars in two pairs. Then it would be called a "scull". Here is an interesting photo:

Both boats here have 8 oars but the nearest is a four man (or woman) scull, each woman has two oars, while the far boat has eight rowers plus a skipper and still eight oars, one per woman. It gets confusing and I supposed all of this evolved over eons.

I just read that the sculls can be the lighter of the two because the power is supplied with symmetry but normal club boats might use the same hull rigged both ways.

How do you put a huge long oar on a boat 2' wide? With "riggers". Here is a sample photo of one type of rigger.

I noticed many other riggers are actually sturdy braced wings that span the hull, like this:

But no matter how it is done it has to be sturdy. Note the sliding seat and the shoes which are indeed part of the hull. So you strap yourself into the boat by your feet and push hard with your legs as the rest of you is working too. I guess all your muscles get involved. The biggest boats have eight big men and I once talked with a university rowing coach as to who he tried to recruit to his team. He said he hovers about the basketball office to scoop up guys who aren't on the team for one reason or another. He wanted tall and strong just like the basketball coach. I suppose with all muscles pulling something like this might put out 5 to 10 horsepower in a spurt. Here is a full "eight" as it is called:

And another:

Well, it gets complicated, doesn't it. In the Olympics all racing was done in well defined lanes but often these eights are raced in rivers with fantastic oar crashing collisions as you might imagine as boats get too near each other. I saw that happen once on ESPN and they carried on to the finish less the broken oars.

Anyway, so how fast do these things go? These were raced usually over a 2000 meter course, twice as far as the canoes and kayaks so if you compare speeds you are using apples against oranges. But we'll do that anyway. These are speeds for the winners at the London Olympics.

Women's single scull...9.5 mph

Men's single scull...10.7 mph

Women's double scull...10.6 mph

Men's double scull... 11.3 mph

Womens' quad scull...11.5 mph

Men's quad scull...12.4 mph

Women's pair...10.0 mph

Men's pair...12.0 mph

Women's eight...12.0 mph

Men's eight...12.9 mph

I'm not sure what it all means and keep in mind that these are real races maybe with strategy and at the end of a long week of qualifying. Note that the men's eight and the K4 went the same speed, admitting that the rowing eight went 2000 meters and the K4 went 1000. They also had shorter sprint drag racing in some classes. For example tthe one man K1 went 12.8mph over a 200 yard course.

Well, I can't help but feel that the kayaks were sort of the winners here. They are both fast and simple all things considered. But then again most of these sports thrive on complexity!




Cormorant is the largest boat I've ever designed. I always warn folks to think twice and three times before building a big boat because you can buy a good used glass boat for less, maybe a lot less. But a homebuilt boat can have features that aren't available in a production boat and so it is with Cormorant. This one is really a 20% enlargement of Caprice.

Straight enlargements rarely work perfectly and so it was with Cormarant from Caprice. (Don't forget that Caprice was an enlargement of Frolic2, etc., etc., right on down to my Toto canoe.) In this case I narrowed it from a straight enlargement to keep the width within simple towing limits since this large boat is supposed to live on its trailer most of the time. The layout is quite similar. The idea is that the adults sleep in the center cabin and the kids sleep in the forward room.

Like Caprice, Cormorant has water ballast, over 1000 pounds of it. Total floating weight with family is going to be up to 4500 pounds. You don't tow a boat this large behind a compact car but I think towing this sort of weight is common today, all done with expensive large trucks I'm afraid.

The sail rig looks pretty modest with a 207 sq foot main. I'll bet it is enought since this shape is easily driven. I don't think you can go any larger and still hope to handle it without extra crew and gear.Tthe lug sail shown is similar in size to Bolger sharpies and they seem to get by OK. Experience will show if it is too big/too little.

Constuction is taped seam, with no jigs or lofting. Unlike smaller designs this one does not come with a plywood panel layout drawing. Over the years I've learned two things about the ply layout page. First is that almost no one uses it. Second is that with a larger boat the work of finding and drawing and fitting all the pieces to the boat on scale plywood sheets overwhelms all the other work. So part of the deal with doing the design was that there would be no plywood layout drawing. However this is still a true "instant boat" in that all of the parts that define the boat are drawn in detail and you can scale them up on plywood, cut it out and fasten together with no need for lofting or a building form.

Garth Battista, who is a book publisher at Breakaway Books where he publishes sporting books including my Boatbuilding For Beginners (And Beyond), is a true boat nut and has worked himself up from dinghies and canoes to the big Cormorant. He took it initially on a quick shakedown run on a lake near his home and shortly later to Long Island Sound for a week with his family. Here are his comments:

"We had an amazing time living aboard Cormorant (christened "Sea Fever") in Provincetown harbor for 5 days. The tide there was rising and falling about 12 feet a day with the full moon. We'd be high and dry up on the beach for breakfast, swimming off the boat at lunchtime, walking the flats again by dinner. It was a blissful time for me and my wife and two girls. We moved around, took little sails here and there across the harbor (West End to Long Point, then to the lighthouse, then to the East End, etc.) anchoring here and there, usually just running it aground as the tide allowed and staying for a while. Many shells were collected, and tidal pools investigated. Of all the harbors I've ever seen, it is the most alive. It's a couple of miles across and fresh sea water flushes the whole place twice a day. The number of snails, clams, crabs, fish of all sizes, mussels, eelgrass, etc. was just mind-boggling. On high tides I'd go spearfishing (many attempts, no luck) where at low tide I'd been walking around.

We rigged a 8' x 15' white tarp with tent poles running crosswise as a canopy over our cockpit and hatch, supported along the mast folded down in the tabernacle, so we could escape the mid-day sun. Most days were hot and humid and mild, with only gentle winds. We rode out a nighttime thunderstorm with no trouble, just stayed up and watched the lightning. We attended a few wedding-related events, just walking ashore for one party, and for the wedding itself we returned late at night and rowed our dinghy out to the boat, our sleepy children just awake enough to get themselves aboard.

For our last two days we gave up the shallow-water life and sailed from P-town down to Wellfleet, about 7 miles, surfing along on gentle 3-foot waves with a following wind. We beached the boat at Great Island, walked the beach, had a picnic dinner, swam and played, spent the night, and left the next morning at 6 a.m. to beat the falling tide. Our weather radio mysteriously quit working that morning, so all we had was the prior day's forecast of 10-15 knot winds from the SW.

The wind had shifted into the west during the night, so we had to beat out of the harbor, and once we turned north to return to Provincetown, huge rollers were coming in off the bay, more or less directly into our port side, lifting us, rolling us, occasionally breaking and spraying water into the boat. We stayed well offshore to avoid the breakers in by the beach -- but with the falling tide it seemed that we needed to be nearly a mile out. It went from exhilarating to worrisome to mildly terrifying as we neared P-town and the wind kept picking up, past 20 knots to 25 and higher in gusts, and the waves just kept growing. The swells were in the 8-10 foot range, with a high percentage of them breaking at their tops, whitecaps everywhere.

But bless this boat! With its 1000 lbs. of water ballast, and the leeboard mostly up, we were able to bob and roll and slide over nearly all the swells. The worst of them were very steep and threw us sideways, maybe tilting us to 40 or 45 degrees briefly. We had two reefs in the main and the mizzen rolled down to about half-size, and still we blasted along on this nasty rollercoaster of a beam reach. It was the sort of trip that would be scary fun if it was just you and a buddy, but it's awful when you have your loved ones aboard, and you wonder who might get thrown overboard, and how you'd managed a rescue in the rough conditions.

Anyway -- the white knuckles got to relax as we finally made it past the P-town breakwater, and with great relief ran her aground out on the flats. The gale (or near-gale) continued to blow all day, kicking up 3 and 4-foot waves even in the protected areas of the harbor. The only boats we saw going out were an 80-foot schooner and a big whale-watch boat. A lobsterman we talked to later said he'd stayed in as it was too rough to check his traps.

We had a hell of a time taking the boat out and getting her on her trailer for the trip home -- but all worked out in the end, with the assistance of some very kind strangers; and I'm left with the memories of incredibly happy days. -- And an incredible boat.

All best, Garth

P.S. Jim -- I should also mention that on Sunday afternoon as we turned the corner from our run down to Wellfleet to the close reach upwind toward the inner harbor, the boat just drove perfectly. It seemed we made 40 degrees off the wind. That maybe wishful thinking, but it was an angle far better than I'd imagined a lugsail could manage. It was a joy to sail, in all conditions. My hat is off to you.

P.P.S. The number of people who came over to admire the boat and exclaim at its uniqueness, its coolness, its obvious functionality -- well, they were beyond count. "

One more thing, Garth sent me this photo of himself working hard on his new sports book:

Plans for Cormorant are $60 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.....

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

The Texas Hapscut, built by John Goodman, is shown here doing a low flyby on the Texas200. This year he took his wife! This boat looks like it is motor planing but it is not, just using strong steady Texas200 winds. (He has scarfed some material on the stern to finish the boat with a built in motor well like Laguna. Good idea.) Full report soon.






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