Sunday, September 17, 2017

CATCH: Augmented Rowing -- Solar Sails

Been having an email conversation with "Gus" over the last couple of months... I was fascinated by his concept of using hardtop covers (what Gus calls 'lids') for sun/rain protection rather than 'canvas' tents/shelters. He then told me about his 'solar sails' and I was hooked... rather than try to paraphrase all that he has done, I've decide to just link you over to his site.

The title photo above shows the lids and solar sails... fully described in his blog... his photos and workmanship are outstanding... and fun to read. Strongly recommended.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A (Not So) Radical Oar Cruiser

Sam Devlin’s Mallard is a boat designed for duck hunting.

Sam Devlin's Mallard

The design is based on the Barnegat Bay (New Jersey) Sneak-box. The big difference between Mallard and the Sneak-box is that the Sneak-box has the deck and bottom meet at the sheer line and is carvel planked.

Mallard, on the other hand, is built with plywood, is V-bottomed and has narrow topsides. However, though constructed differently, the overall design concept is very similar. The adaptation by Sam Devlin enables Mallard to be easily converted into small oar cruiser for protected waters.

And the design is quite capable of extended oar cruising: In 1876, Nathaniel Bishop rowed a sneak-box (Centennial Republic) 2600 miles down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, sleeping aboard (under a wooden hatch) many nights. Bishop’s book (Four Months in a Sneak-Box) is available, free, at this link.

Plan Overview of the Centennial Republic

Details of the Centennial Republic

Note that Sneakboxes (15’/4.6m) and Duck Boats (12’/3.7m) (example) are two sailing class boats still being raced in Barnegat Bay, looking almost like they did over 140 years ago. In the late 1950’s, I helped my father build about 15 Duck Boats for the Bay Head (NJ) and Island Heights (NJ) Yacht Clubs.

Mallard Specifications:

  • Length 12’ – 11”/4.6m
  • Beam 4’ – 10”/1.5m
  • Draft 5”/127mm
  • Design: “V” bottom with 15° deadrise
  • (Maximum of 15hp Outboard)
  • 8’/2.4m oars would be about right for the 4’ 4”/1.3m span (oarlock to oarlock) 
  • Displacement 155 lbs/70 Kg (Design specifies 3/8” (9mm) plywood for hull and ¼” (6mm) for deck)
  • Max Load 580 lbs/263 Kg

Overview of Mallard plans

Commentary from Sam Devlin:

“This is an old and venerable design by now with the first design and boat built more than 20 years ago as I write this. She is of the “SneakBox” type of boat with the transom accommodating up to a 15 hp outboard motor, but she also rows or poles very well. In fact, of all the “SneakBox” types of boats that we design and build, the little Mallard is the best at rowing. There is positive foam 3 point flotation that allows the boat to float level and upright even if the cockpit were full of water.” 

Suggestions for an ‘Oar Cruiser’ version:

  • To reduce weight, I’d build with ¼”/6mm plywood, since I would not use any outboard
  • Reduce the size of the cockpit opening, unless I was planning to carry a passenger
  • Make the coamings higher than the 1-3/8” (35mm) specified, especially the forward and aft ones, and raise the oarlocks a corresponding amount. See the post on Rowing Geometry for how to set up foot rest, rowing seat, oar locks and oar length.
  • Add a removable rowing seat and foot brace.
  • Add a temporary ‘tent’ shelter.

Please comment below: From your perspective, how feasible is Mallard as a protected waters Oar Cruiser?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Oar Cruiser with Sleeping Cabin

NOTE: My understanding is that Wayland Marine is no longer viable, the most recent two owners have passed away... Does anyone know if the Company/plans/patterns/etc. were purchased by anyone?

Wayland Marine’s Merry Expedition and Colin Angus’s RowCruiser are the only two oar cruisers (I know of) that have a dedicated sleeping cabin.

Description & Specifications from Wayland Marine

"The Merry Expedition is built on the ocean proven hull of the  Merry Wherry Two and Merry Sea with the added feature of a hurricane deck's cozy sleeping cabin and self-bailing cockpit design. Plans are available to enable you to convert your existing Merry Wherry Two or Merry Sea to either the Chris Duff inspired Iceland version [pictured above] using Cedar Strip construction or to the Merry Expedition version using the standard "Stitch & Glue" plywood construction."

Merry Expedition
  • Length..............................................19' (5.8m)
  • Width...............................................39" (991mm)
  • Beam at waterline............................29" (737mm)
  • Carry Weight (hull only)..................90 lbs. (40.8Kg)
  • Rowing Weight Single Rig Only.....110 lbs. (49.9Kg)
  • Capacity...........................................450 lbs (204Kg)

Merry Wherry Two, the hull used for the Merry Expedition

Chris Duff modified (click on "Boat Construction" in this link) a Merry Wherry Two for his extended expeditions.  As noted above, the plans for the Merry Expedition include both Chris’s strip built cabin and the standard plywood cabin.

Chris Duff's custom Merry Wherry Two in a more tranquil setting than the 'surf' photo at the top 

Every time I do a review, it seems to become my new current favorite design... I think this one will remain in my top 3. Your opinions welcome!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Steve Redmond's Whisp

Steve Redmond’s Whisp is a flat bottom skiff similar to John Welsford’s Seahawk/Mollyhawk.

Steve Redmond's Whisp

Commentary from Steve Redmond (Designer)

"Whisp is a very popular fine-lined ultralight sharpie skiff designed for sailing, rowing and electric power. Whisp can perform the functions of four boat types: a canoe, a fishing boat, a rowing boat, and a sailboat."

Interior of Whisp (Note the caned seats)

Whisp (white sail) sailing 


  • LOA 15’ 7” (4.75m)
  • Beam 3’ 6” (1.07m)
  • Hull weight 70 lbs (32Kg)
  • Capacity 400 lbs (181Kg)

Whisp on a VW


Each side of the hull consists of three panels that are first glued together with a small overlap resulting in a flat panel. After both sides of the hull (in the form of two flat panels) are completed, they are bent around temporary frames and attached to the stem and transom. Then, using stitch and glue, the bottom panel is attached to the two sides… An innovative technique to build a lap-strake hull.

As an Oar Cruiser?

Whisp is a fine, all-purpose row/sail/electric outboard utility boat. With some additions to the basic hull, it can also be a sleep-onboard oar cruiser. Here’s what I’d do:

  • Add floorboards that span the frames to provide a dry sleeping area and anchor points for the foot brace and rowing seat. 
  • Add fore and aft decks.
  • Provide shelter for sleeping, cooking, etc…. see here and here  for examples.

What do you think?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Selway-Fisher's Windrush

In the post on May 7, 2017, we presented Iain Oughtred's Mole, a 15' (4.6m) 'skiff'. Selway-Fisher's Windrush is very similar, but with two big differences: Windrush is 18' (5.5m) and she is constructed "stitch and tape" rather than lap-strake plank on frame. Both are beautiful boats.


LOA.......................................................18' (5.49m)
Beam......................................................2'9" 0.85m)
Hull Mid Depth.....................................13" (0.32m)
Draft.......................................................4" (0.1m)
Approx. Dry Weight...............................66 lbs (30 kg)
Hull Shape..............................................4 planks per side with wine-glass transom
Construction Method..............................Stitch and tape
Major plywood requirements for hull.....6 x 4, 5 or 6mm exterior or marine plywood
Guidance Use..........................................3 adults or single use
Drawing/Design Package........................4 x A1 drawings + 5 a A4 instruction sheets

Selway-Fisher Commentary:

"This skiff has been drawn up for a client who specifically wanted to develop a design optimised for the "Frontrower" rowing system which allows the rower to face forward. For those who do not want to use this system we have included details for the skiff to be fitted out with conventional fixed seat and outriggers—she could also take a sliding seat if required. 
Construction is simple stitch and tape using 4 planks per side but we also include the jig and mould details so that she may be built using clinker ply construction."

...under construction...

...clam's eye view.

For oar cruising, including sleeping onboard, the following would need to be done:

  • Provide floorboards that span the V-bottom… see here and here for examples.
  • Provide shelter for sleeping, cooking, etc…. see here and here for examples.
  • Provide fore and aft, and possibly side, decks which could be skin-on-frame to minimize weight.
Windrush, with these additions, would be a beautiful, fast oar cruiser... and without these additions, a beautiful fast day boat for one rower and one or two passengers... or for two rowers (and a passenger). 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Jim Michalak's Oracle

Jim's Oracle is 15' 6" (4.7m) long, 45" (1143mm) wide and weighs 89 lbs (36 kg) as designed. The overall design is similar to Jim's most popular design, Toto.

Max Wawrazyniak's Oracle

Plans Overview...

...and an End View

Jim, using a GPS found the speed to be 4 mph (6.4 kmh) at a 'cruising pace', and 5+ mph (8+ kmh) when he pushed hard.

Max Wawrzyniak published an article in Duckworks focused on building Oracle.

Max's Oracle under Construction

Gerry L. also has an Oracle build documented on his site.

Jim has a good article on setting up the seat and oarlocks to get the correct trim on an Oracle or any other rowboat.

Steve Chamber's Oracle
Oracle would make a fine oar cruiser without affecting the hull design which has proven to be very effective. Possible modifications to create a 'sleep-aboard' oar cruiser include:
  • Fore and aft decks made either with plywood or skin-on-frame
  • Floorboards to provide dry sleeping platform and attachment points for rowing seat and foot braces
  • Temporary shelter.
See the the post on Larsboat for one example of what these modification would look like.

Oracle, another great design by Jim Michalak: easy to build, good looking, fast.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

CATCH: Letter From a Batto Rower

Last November, we posted a review of Jim Machalak's Batto [which has garnered more views than any other post on this site]. Featured in that post is Wojtek Baginski's own build of Batto.

Earlier this week, Wojtek sent me a letter with some photos of an 'oar cruise' in Poland. With Wojtek's permission, here is the letter and photos:
Hi Tom,
I finally elaborated the system for Batto (self made sliding seat, inspired by Rick Thompson solution
[Rick's solution at the end of the post] but a drop-in embodiment) plus second hand outrigger plus second hand Macon oars)  and started up down river  cruise last Saturday, catching fine weather after 2 weeks of tropical like storms we faced here in Warsaw.  First day distance 80 km [50 miles], overnight on the river island.  The second day distance 43 km [27 miles],  the boat left at the river marina in the city of Płock 123 km down from Warsaw.  Back home by bus. 
Thanks to adjustments and river trainings with my rowing club coach Tomek Wiśniewski (doing the job on the photo attached) before the start,  Birdie works precisely as a Swiss watch. Really fast craft.
 Can't say much about Robote/Batto comparision as they are completely different, especially once Batto has been equipped with the sliding seat system. Both are perfect for their intended purposes: Robote for coastal rowing and Batto for river rowing.  I noticed that some cargo taken on Batto makes it more stable. This follows the observation I've had while taking my daughter as a passenger the other day. I had some camping gear and food last weekend, but for future legs which do not include camping option I'll take 5 polytarp bags prepared for sailing version of my Robote, each can be filled with 10 kg [22 lbs.]of wet sand on a beach. 

 I gave up on the tent over the hull as I have no floor. Any splash leaves some water in and you're right it is necessary to lift the sleeping stuff a bit up. 
 Nearest Sunday I'll get back to the boat and go further. For various reasons I decided to convert my river adventure into weekend mode.  
I posted similar info and same pictures  to Jim [Machalak], may be he'd like to use it at his newsletter.   

Photos of Wojtek's Batto ("Birdie"):

Wojtek, thanks for the write-up and photos, and allowing me to share this with other oar cruising fans.