Jim Michalak's Boat Designs

118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254

A page of boat designs and essays.

(15June2012) This issue will cover the 2012 Rend Lake Messabout. The 1 July issue will rerun an old old article about propellor thrust.



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.


A quiet moment at the Rend Lake Messabout. That's Natasha Lewis.



Contact info:


Jim Michalak
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254

Send $1 for info on 20 boats.




Rend Lake 2012


Well, it was the weekend before Father's Day and time to make the annual drive to Rend Lake. I get there on Friday morning but several people are already there earlier, maybe much earlier. I make no reservations but always plan to sleep in my boat beached at the campground. So I go straight to the launch ramp. As always I see some early arrivals already in the water. The first I bumped into was...

...Rob RZ and total family in his Sandy Shoal 16. This is a very modified AF4b which he got used. He has it set up ideally for this family use. In the photo it appears that Rob's wife is steering but no so, Rob has home made remote controls mounted forward, like this:

I know this is not a new idea but you can see it can be all home brewed and that it is more compact than the usual wheel steering. Seems to work flawlessly. Rob had been away for a few years. WELCOME BACK!


...as you see in Rob's photo was clear as a bell, light winds and temps in the mid 80's day and mid 60's night and could have hardly been better. I suppose the sailboats wanted more wind but there was more out on the main lake and several ventured daily the 5 miles or so across the lake, and back.


...Mike Zenker also returned after several years away. He brought his Campanoe which is sort of a rare bird now. It's a factory (very small factory) boat, sort of a catamaran made from two plastic canoes. They hinge together in the middle and can fold very neatly for trailering. When unfolded as shown there is quite a living spread and a tent to go with it all. Mike said the motor had not been run in years but fired and ran after three or four tugs and faltered not all weekend. WELCOME BACK MIKE!

As I motored slowly to the campground, which is only a tenth of a mile away, or so, I saw Rovie Alford with his Elain, which is a nicely modified Harmonica. Rovie added a motor well to the stern, a very good idea and something I put on the similar Dockbox and Shanteuse that followed the Harmonica design. Rovie has left the window areas totally open which is also a nice idea I think, at least in good weather. You can't do that with a sailing birdwatcher cabin because you might need it for emergency righting buoyancy but with a powerboat that is hardly a matter. This is a very useful boat if you don't have rough water to contend with. Very shallow draft and the upswept bow make for a smooth step to the beach.

And then I saw Paul Ellifrit's reincarnated Family Skiff. He had told me he took the sawzall to his sailing hull and converted it into a low speed powerboat, as he had done to a Selway he had made in years past. This works very well as long as you don't want to plane. He said the boat went 7mph at part throttle and won't go faster, as these things usually do. Such is the sailboat hull.

Nice cabin too. I got this shot later on shore...

A ways on and we both met up with his Puddle Duck. At first I thought it was Dave Brown's Catbox from last year but it wasn't. This was Matt from northern Indiana, he said on his first real sail, an earlier trip being a mere leak check. He did quite well, the large lug sail suiting in the light winds we had. Nice job.

At the beach I ran into Brian from Omaha with the world's only Brucesboat. He is a river explorer of sorts and took off to find the feed river of Rend Lake. I warned him about the uncleared trees and stumps in the northern part of the lake. He soldiered on anyway but turned back after hitting a few things that should not have been there.

When he returned I hitched a ride with him. He had a gps, the weather was ideal for a test, although I'm not sure if his 9.8hp motor was broken in yet. We estimated total weight of 800 pounds which usually means that you need 16hp to keep it comfortably on plane.

Looks pretty comfortable in his folding chair. Gps has made testing a very quick deal. At 8mph the Brucesboat started to lift up on plane and full throttle gave us 15mph, very much on plane. We were both satisfied. Unlike a flattie, a multichine boat banks into the turn and seems safer. To be determined with Brucesboat is whether it will behave well in strong cross winds. Bolger went to using small leeboards or bilgeboards for that reason in some multichine powerboats, but Kilburn Adams uses nothing on his Skiff America and seems to have no control problems. We shall see.

Mike Sandell passed by with his Fatcat. Brought his wife this time. Nice big sail. Sort of a veteran now. More on this later...


Now here's an interesting story. Bill Giles arrived from Memphis with his new Jewelbox Jr with a lug rig. He had the boat in Florida a few weeks earlier, never in the water then, and found it would not steer to windward. He had to give up his plans to sail the Florida 120 with it.

He told me of the problem and I said with luck if he brought it to Rend Lake we might figure it out. A boat with lee helm is usually the victim of having its sail area forward of its leeboard. You can do the math to get a handle on the problem but sometimes you will need to fiddle with it to get it right. In this case I suggested raking the mast aft. The sail will follow it aft and ease the problem. I also rigged his boom with the tack line fairly far forward which also moves the sail aft. We sailed it. It went fine now. Bill had made a shim about 1" thick for the mast partner, which raked the mast aft. It looks quite good to me and drives like it is supposed to. On Saturday he sailed it for many hours. A story with a happy ending.

Out on the lake more boats were arriving...

This shot is from across the cove, no close up. Mike's Fatcat is on the left returning from its journey. On the right is Mike Giles (Bill's brother) arriving in his Mayfly16. And the plywood landing craft, fitted out as a lugsail schooner, is Steven Tyree's Tinker. More on this one later.

We started beaching for lunch and a rest.

Here we have the two Giles brothers boats plus my AF4. I forgot to take photos of my AF4 but it hasn't changed at all. The blue boat in the background is Currie Bishop's Summer Breeze. More on that one later. Actually I think this is a near sunset photo. Let's continue the story on...


Same perfect weather as Friday. But I'm not complaining. Several larger boats slipped out to the main lake and I hitched a ride on The Tryee Tinker....

MIght as well talk about the Tinker right now. Designed by Stever with Bolger lore. Two sheets long and one sheet wide. Sides and bottom turn to the same curve, which Bolger theorized would minimize turbulence, which results in the pram bow. Steve made the large bow cockpit for his family and the small stern cockpit for himself. Gave it a schooner rig with lugsails, the main is quite large indeed, well suited for the light winds we had. He has dumped it at least once and almost dumped it in a rare Saturday gust. Luckily I wasn't with him then but it was great fun to watch from the shore. We sailed out to mid lake and met the Giles brothers and Chris Feller returning from the lakes far shore in their boats. Remember....WE ARE NOT RACING!

Chris's Philsboat is a veteran too. I think he has brought it to every meet since he finished it. Uses it as a camping trailer in the campground, complete with electric fan this year although in past hotter years he had an air conditioner that mounts in the cabin front. Looks and goes really well. He is steering here with a line that runs to the tiller, allowing him to trim forward and get a little more speed. Remember...WE ARE NOT RACING!

Here is a photo of Mike Giles' Mayfly16. He has done a lot of sailing in it in the past year. One of my favorite designs actually. I like simple things that work well and this seems to be one of those. Looks like Mike passed us and won the non race.

Looking about I saw that Kilburn Adams was not using his Skiff America although he had brought it and was sleeping aboard on its trailer in the campground. Instead he was using this canoe...

It's a Kilburn design with a Hobie sail and pedal flipper drive. He used it all weekend, hours at a time.

Here is a boat that I know nothing about. Perhaps someone can fill in the details but clearly a very well done traditional hull.

Here is another mystery boat although in this case we got the owner in the photo.

Paddled facing forward with those shorty oars. Went quite well. Light enough that he simply carried it by himself up and down the bank on his back. He later became quite important....

Seems he also knew his old outboards quite well. Mike was having problems with his old 3hp Evinrude, dying after a few minutes and usually at a bad time. As you see the mystery man got it running, apparently dirt hidden in the fuel system somewhere cleared by blowing on the fuel line into the tank. Then it ran OK as far as I know.

Might as well mention another motor problem that appeared. Joe Stromski's old Johnson was surging at higher throttle settings, was OK at slower speeds so he was able to use his AF4 since the entire cove is a no wake area. But after head scratching by all of us he took it out and pumped the fuel bulb when it started to surge. When he did that it picked up again and ran full. So the feeling is that he needs a new fuel pump.

So....here comes messabout veteran Barry in his early model Sea Pearl, rowing from the launch ramp. Had his motor but forgot the mount but didn't need it. Sailed it later and it is an older lugged rig leeboard Sea Pearl.

And here is Dave and grand daughter in the yellow Catbox. You might see why I thought Matt's boat was this Catbox as they got their paint from the same can. I borrowed this boat for a half hour and enjoyed my ride in the cove with its chopped up winds. By the way, the paper Catbox plans now include a leeboard alternate to the usual daggerboard. Pretty sure if you ain't gonna race then the leeboard is the way to go. It's what I would use.

The shore line was filling in with pretty boats on Saturday afternoon with many more still to the left and right of this section....

And lots of shady room to watch on the shore...

Although Kilburn Adams was totally busy with his sailing canoe his Skiff Americas were well represented and all done in the same color scheme. On the left is Bill Dulin and on the right is Robert Cope.

And here is something assigned to Natasha Lewis, daughter of experimenter Steve Lewis. She called it Eider Duck but everyone else called it The Purple Thing...

It's a Puddle Duck stretched to 10'. Tasha used it as a fishing platform too. And here is Steve hisself in another experiment he called the English Duck Punt...

Ain't got no rudder or lateral board. This one has chine runners. I tried it out. Had trouble getting used to the steering oar but it was mostly controlable by weight shifting. Steve was a lot better at it.

Also in the photo you see Kilburn Adams son in his Bolger Teal. This might have been the oldest boat at the meet and might have been at the very first Rend Lake Messabout long long ago.

Dave from Rockford brought his Wind I Go back for maybe its tenth year. Dave is a famous world class scrounger, olympic class dumpster diver. I think the roller furler you see here is from a dumpster fishing reel.

Paul brought his "Frankencanoe" down from Milwaukee. It's a plastic canoe he fitted with his push row articulated oars. Went quite well. Looks backwards indeed. Here he is coming into the shore. I'd think he was heading out except his wake is going the wrong way!

Currie Bishop was back with his Summer Breeze.

He has an AF4 project on the way for his growing family. Here is his latest project...

Well the sun was setting. I hurried down to the shore for some last photos of boats that I had either forgotten or which had been out on the water all day...

That is Steve's Tinker closest and Rovie's Harmonica. Further down the line were the Joe Stromski boats...

The near skin kayak was his latest project. In the background is his veteran AF4 which acted as family transport all weekend including a few trips to the swimming beach where his boys got involved with the sandcastle building contest.

And as the sun set Joe got to cooking the burgers for Saturday's pot luck dinner. Quite a feast. That's Joe amid the smoke. In the foreground his boys contemplate sand castle technology. In the far ground Dave waves to the camera as Kenny Giles plays Macarthur Park on his uke while brother Bill wonders what in hell the lyrics are supposed to mean.

Well, off to bed and a quiet night. Most of the boats trailer up on Saturday evening so they don't have to deal with that on Sunday morning and maybe having to deal with the jetskis and cigarette boats that take over on Sunday.

But we sure had a wonderful time, didn't we!




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.....

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, very complete and I got to ride in it at Rend Lake. 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!!)

The Texas Hapscut is done and maybe on the Texas 200 as I write this. (He has scarfed some material on the stern to finish the boat with a built in motor well like Laguna. Good idea.)

This is the Paulsboat sailing canoe. It is done and as you see here has been sailing. You might search youtube for "paulsboat" and watch. The photo below was captured from the youtube video.






Mother of All Boat Links

Cheap Pages

Duckworks Magazine

The Boatbuilding Community

Kilburn's Power Skiff

Bruce Builds Roar

Dave Carnell

Rich builds AF2

JB Builds AF4

JB Builds Sportdory

Hullforms Download (archived copy)

Puddle Duck Website

Brian builds Roar2 (archived copy)

Herb builds AF3 (archived copy)

Herb builds RB42 (archived copy)

Barry Builds Toto

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