Michalak's Vireo Resting at Spruce Run (T. Clarke)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Can We Make a 12' Oar Cruiser?

I think the answer is "Yes"...

Jim Michalak's Vireo is 12' (3.66m) long, 45" (114.3cm) wide and about 60 pounds (27kg) empty. Made with 3 sheets of 1/4" (6mm) plywood. I've rowed this a number of times... found it very stable, easy to row and surprisingly fast for a 12' boat... sustained speed at 3.5 mph (5.6 kh) and 'sprint' to about 5 mph.

This is an overview of the plans, with a picture of my friend Paul's Vireo.
Vireo Plans

Vireo at Round Valley Resevoir, NJ
To convert this to an 'overnight cruiser', I would make the following additions:

- Full deck with cockpit opening 4'6" (137cm) long, 2'6" (76cm) wide and 13" (33cm) deep to the top of the floorboards.

- Overall cockpit 6'6" (198cm) long, extending under the foredeck.

- Aft deck (crowned about 2" (5cm) 2'6" (78cm) long. The after bulkhead moved aft 6" to support the deck.

- The fore deck (also crowned) 5' (1.5m) long and the forward bulkhead moved forward to enable full 6'6" interior length of the cockpit.

- Oar locks installed on short outriggers (removable) hooked onto the coaming.

- Appropriate hatches to allow access to the fore and aft waterproof compartments.

- A full length cockpit floor to provide a flat sleeping area and provide adjustable stops for the rowing seat and footrest.

- Two bows to support a cover at night.

- Note that the only changes to the original planned construction are the movement of the two bulkheads. All else are additions.

- I'd estimate the weight of the completed Oar Cruiser to be approximately 100 pounds (45kg).

Pictured below is an 8:1 scale model of the conversion described above, with 8' (2.4m) spoon blade oars.
Proposed Conversion of Vireo: Scale 8:1

Top View of Model

Looking Forward
Cockpit Interior, Seat, Foot Rest and Outriggers

I can picture rowing down Barnegat Bay (NJ) in the late fall after all the jet skis are put away... listening to the gulls and terns... a cold breeze keeping the perspiration at bay... anchoring at dusk... tucked into a shallow cove behind a sedge grass knoll... buttoning up the cover and settling down to a hot cup of coffee and meal of Dinty Moore beef stew... roll out the sleeping pad and bag... sweet dreams!

Please comment with your thoughts: What do you LIKE about this conversion? What do you DISLIKE? What SUGGESTIONS would you have to make it a more useful Oar Cruiser?

Originally published January 16, 2016.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Laying In a Waterline

You’ve built your boat, but now you want to lay in a waterline so that you can:

  1. Know where the bottom paint and the topside paint meet and/or
  2. Know where the fiberglass sheathing on the bottom stops and/or
  3. Know where to paint a boot-top of contrasting color (or boat-striping-tape). Note: I’ve used this West Marine tape and it has held up for three seasons with no peeling or discoloring… highly recommended (I have no connection with West Marine.)

First Step: Determine waterline END locations

Using the waterline marked on the plans for the boat, mark with a pencil about 1” to 2” inches (25 to 50mm) above (toward the sheer line) where the plans specify.


Put the boat into shallow water, load it (with people, sand bags, etc.) as you will normally be paddling, rowing, sailing, motoring and mark at the bow and stern about 1” to 2” inches above water level.

Second Step: Mark proposed waterline

See this Tips From a Shipwright video. The video shows the technique I used on my Ross Lillistone Flint. As shown in the video, use a tight string between the two horizontal supports, marking the waterline with either a pencil or short pieces of masking tape. You can do this by yourself, no help is needed. This technique is useful if the boat is NOT level, either fore and aft, or side to side.

Horizontal Stick at the Stern for Laying in a Waterline...

...and at the Bow.

A variation of this technique, which requires two people, is to set up the horizontal sticks as above. One person is the ‘marker’ (using pencil or short pieces of tape) and the other person stays at least one boat length away and sights across the two sticks, telling the ‘marker’ where to mark the waterline. I used this technique on an earlier boat I had with my wife as the ‘marker’. Worked well.
Another technique is to use a laser level such as this, (if you already have one!) . This can also be done by yourself.

You can level the boat (so that the bow and stern marks you did in the first step are level) by using a long clear plastic tube filled with water taped to the bow and stern and then moving the boat so that the water level in both ends are at the marks you placed in Step 1. Once the boat is set up ‘level’, take one end of the tube (making sure you don’t spill any water from the tube), walk around the hull, marking  every 6” the proposed waterline.

If the floor under the boat is level and flat (mine isn’t) and you have ‘leveled’ the boat as in the paragraph above, then just use a stick held vertically on the floor to mark the proposed waterline.

Third Step: Mark the full waterline

Using the guide pencil marks (or pieces of tape), lay in a continuous strip of masking tape around the hull. The ‘keel’ side of this tape will be the edge of the bottom paint and fiberglass cloth (if used).

When I glassed the bottom of Lillistone Flint, I laid in the waterline using blue painter’s tape. I then taped newspaper sheets to this ‘waterline tape’ in order to prevent any epoxy from dribbling onto the topsides. When I epoxied the cloth to the bottom, I overlapped the tape by a half inch (12mm) or so.

I then spread about four layers of epoxy on the cloth (sanding between each layer) until the weave was totally filled (each mixed with graphite powder). Epoxy dripped down over the tape and newspapers. When it had all thoroughly dried, I was able to lift the waterline tape, flex it up and down a couple of times, and the epoxied cloth broke off cleanly at the edge of the tape. There was no need to cut the cloth with a knife.

After the hull was painted, I used the West Marine Boot Top Tape, slightly overlapping the top edge of the fiberglass cloth.

Let us know of any other techniques you have used to lay in a waterline.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Paul Gartside’s Flashboat

Paul Gartside's Flashboat is a fast rowboat, capable of handling rough water and easily converted to an oar cruiser by adding SOF decks and a tent arrangement for shelter at night. He also uses an innovative construction technique that results in a very light boat that can be easily car-topped.

Paul’s commentary:

“The Flashboat is a family favorite with its roots in England's West Country. This is a modified version of a Cornish racing skiff. Its construction is unusual, with thin marine ply bent in two directions, which gives high strength for very low weight. It is also more of a challenge to build than most plywood designs. Light, graceful and a dream to row, the design has also proved itself to be a versatile, dependable cruising boat. We have wandered far and wide in our Flashboats. During the summers of 1995 to 1997 we took one 3500 miles down the Yukon River, north up the coast, through Bering Strait and on to Barrow.“

Paul Gartside's Flashboat

The lines drawing above shows why she would be very easy to row... and fast. She would be very tender initially, but have great stability in rougher conditions... 3500 miles (5633km) on the Yukon River and Bering Strait demonstrate that rough water capability.

Flashboat Awaiting Calmer Surf During the Yukon River/Bering Strait Cruise

Construction...note how the full-length keel helps provide directional control


  • Length: 15' (4.6m)
  • Beam: 4' 6" (1.4m)
  • Depth amidships: 16.5" (419mm)
  • Weight: 90 lbs (40.1kg)
  • Sailing rig: dipping lugsail (Downwind only, no centerboard, daggerboard nor leeboard)
  • Sail area: 47 sq .ft. (3.4 sq. m)

Paul on construction:

“It is built of four strakes of 1/8 in. plywood laid over a grid of sawn plywood frames and longitudinal stringers. Plywood this thin can be bent (tortured) into a compound curve, and in the bending becomes a very stiff structure. Building hours are very low (180 hours or so), but there is a little more to this than more conventional plywood construction. It has a properly rabbeted stem; also some patience is required to work the lower strakes into place.”“This building method requires very little temporary work. The frames are sawn from 3/8 in. plywood, left long and set up on the building frame. The backbone assembly notches into them and the transom is fitted. Longitudinal stringers are notched into the frames at the plank lands. Planking is glued and fastened to the backbone and stringers with temporary screws. In order to stiffen the bottom, the floorboards are also let into the frames before planking.”
Flashboat would make a beautiful, fast and sea-worthy oar cruiser... let us know what you think.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Scilly Gig 15

Boatplans.cc lists a number of plans for rowboats, sailboats and power boats. One of those designs is the Scilly Gig 15 designed by Bateau.com. She could be converted into another nice oar cruiser.

Lines of the Scilly Gig 15

Description from the Designer

The Scilly Gig is named after a type of very fast row boats that originated in the Scilly Islands, UK and despite what the name sounds like, is designed for the serious oarsman. She is fast: a top speed of 4 mph (6.4 kmh) can be achieved at 25 strokes per minute and at a quieter pace, she will cover more than 3 miles per hour (4.8 kmh). There is a standard and a light version. The light version uses 4mm marine ply and the standard version is made with 6mm marine ply. No compromise has been made to rowing performance for a single crew but if needed, she can carry a passenger and gear without any problem: the pounds per inch (25mm) immersion is 115 lbs (52 kg). A second rowing position is provided by the forward seat. Seats can be rearranged to suit.

 Key Dimensions

Length overall 15' 6" (4.72 m)
Beam 3' 8" (1.12 m)
Weight 80 (36 kg) or 100 lbs (45 kg)

Scilly Gig 15...


Conversion to an Oar Cruiser

Similar to other conversions posted, we would suggest the following:
  • Replace the forward and aft frames with full bulkheads containing large waterproof hatches. This would result in a cockpit approximately 7' (2.1m) long below the decks.
  • Eliminate the center two frames (and seat).
  • Triple the fiberglass taping on the interior of the two chines to provide additional strength.
  • Install fore and aft decks leaving a cockpit opening approximately 4.5' (1.4m) long. The decks could be made Skin-On-Frame to save weight.
  • Add floorboards to provide an anchor for the portable foot brace and rowing seat as well a dry platform for sleeping. See this post as an example. 
  • Add a temporary shelter such as one of these these.

Origins of the Scilly Gig

The following is from Wikipedia: 

The Cornish pilot gig is a six-oared rowing boat, built of Cornish narrow leaf elm, 32 feet (9.8 m) long with a beam of four feet ten inches. It is recognised as one of the first shore-based lifeboats that went to vessels in distress, with recorded rescues going back as far as the late 17th century. The original purpose of the Cornish pilot gig was as a general work boat, and the craft is used for taking pilots out to incoming vessels off the Atlantic. At the time, the gigs would race to get their pilot on board a vessel first (often those about to run aground on rocks) in order to get the job and hence the payment. 
Today, pilot gigs are used primarily for sport, with around 100 clubs across the globe. The main concentration is within Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, however clubs exist in Sussex, Somerset, Devon, Dorset, Wales and London. Internationally, there are pilot gig clubs in France, the Netherlands, the Faroe Islands, Australia, Bermuda, and the United States. 
All modern racing gigs are based on the "Treffry", built in 1838 by William Peters of St. Mawes, and still owned and raced by the Newquay Rowing Club. However non-racing gigs have been built which do not conform to the exact specification of the Treffry and are disallowed from racing in competitive races.

Cornish Pilot Gigs Racing

The Scilly Isles

Aerial View of Scilly Isles that are Located....

...40 Miles (65km) West of "The Lizard" (Southern most point in England)

Your thoughts?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Devlin's Duckling...

Sam Devlin’s Duckling is a beautiful, light weight and fast boat that can be rowed with either sliding seat and/or fixed seat.

Sam Devlin's Duckling (S. Devlin)


  • Length 17′ 3.6″ (5.3m)
  • Beam 3′ 5.75″ (1061mm)
  • Draft 5.25″ (133mm)
  • Displacement 346 lbs (157Kg)
  • Hull weight 95 lbs (43Kg)


Sam Devlin's Duckling Profile... (DevlinBoat.com)


...and From Dead Ahead (DevlinBoat.com)


(Quotes from Dale McKinnon’s article in April 2016 issue of Small Boats Monthly
“…The Duckling 17 is very stable…” 
“…Generally, faster boats sacrifice stability for speed, but in six hard pulls I had reached a GPS-measured 5.7 knots. With a waterline length of 15′ 7-1/8″, the Duckling 17’s theoretical hull speed is 5.3 knots. I settled down to a little over 5 knots at about 22 strokes per minute…” 
“…Although Devlin envisioned the Duckling 17 as a performance rowing craft, not as a load-carrying boat, I’d consider adding battens on the sides during construction to provide a place to attach plastic or metal pad-eyes. With bungee cords and dry bags you’d have secure load-carrying capacity for fast touring coastal waters…” 
“…I’d add a Venturi auto-bailer to take care of any water that might get shipped in rough seas…” * 
“…The thought of arriving comfortably at a destination 20 miles away half an hour sooner is quite appealing. I have no hesitation in recommending the Duckling 17 as a boat for fast and light touring, as well as recreational and open-water rowing.”
(From the Duckling Site Description) 
“Sleek lines and a beautiful sheer make the Duckling a delight to row and own. She is light and responsive and easily handled, providing great exercise for the single oarsman. As a three-panel per side design, she’ll glide through the water nearly effortlessly.
At 95 lbs. the Duckling 17 is a very car-toppable boat, easy for one person to handle. Folding pattern oarlocks and eight foot spoon blade oars give her a lot of power.”

Converting to an Oar Cruiser:

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.

This would make a beautiful and fast oar cruiser that would take you through most any inland waters.

* For a Venturi style bailer, see Duckworks

Sunday, May 14, 2017


“(Peapods) were used by fishermen first as fishing boats, then as lobster boats. They had to be reliable and trustworthy in big waves and had to be easy to row. They also had to resist capsizing as the heavy weight of the lobster traps was hauled over the edge. The fishermen would sometimes row their peapods standing up, using longer oarlocks, looking forward to steer around obstacles and islands. They would also sit facing backwards and row.”
John Gardner, in his book Building Classic Small Craft, tells us that peapods were developed on the coast of Maine in the mid-1800s…
“Long familiarity with the canoe and its good qualities had stamped the image in minds of the fishermen so that later on when the special needs of the lobster fishery called for husky, easy-rowing boats, some of these would naturally turn out to resemble the canoe… the typical Pod was…15’ (4.6m) in average length; both ends exactly alike.” 

Construction of Peapod (MaineBoats.com)

Peapod at Work (MaineBoats.com)

Examples of Currently Available Peapods

Grapeview Point Boatworks offers both a 13’ (4.0m) and 15’ (4.6m) Peapod that can be sailed and rowed.

Grapeview Point Boatworks' Peapod

Length                  13 ft.                     15 ft.
Beam                    52in.                     52in.
   C/B Up:            3 in.                       3 in.
   C/B Down:       18 in.                     18 in.
Approx. Weight  125 lbs. (56.7 kg)  140 lbs. (63.5 kg)
Sail Area             54 sq ft. (5 sq. m)  58 sq ft. (5.4 sq. m)


Arch Davis offers plans and kits for a glued plywood lapstrake peapod.

Arch Davis's 12' Peapod

Length over all:  12′ 3″ (3.7m)
Length waterline:  10′ 7 1/2″ (3.3m)
Beam:  4′ 5″ (1.3)
Draft, board up:  0′ 6″ (0.15m)
Draft, board down:  2′ 3″ (0.7m)
Sail area:  61 sq. ft.  (5.7 sq. m)
Weight:  85 pounds.


Charlie Hussey of Marine Carpentry offers  a beautifully finished carvel planked Peapod.

Charley Hussey's Peapod; Construction Detail...

...and Overview...

...and Sailing

Length: 14.8’ (4.5 m)
Beam: 5’ 3” (1.6 m)
Draft: 3’ (0.9 m) (centreplate down)
Displacement: 330 lb. (150 kg)
Sail area: 80.7 sq. ft. (7.5 sq. m) (sloop rigged standing lug)

Peapod Plans

John Gardner, on pages 132 and 138 of Building Classic Small Craft, shows plans for two Peapods.

A 14' Rowing Peapod

A 15' Sailing Peapod
Note the differences between the two designs:
  • The sailing version has a 6" (152mm) deep keel to provide lateral resistance while sailing -- no center board. The rowing version has a keel only for construction purposes.
  • The sailing version has a flat bottom leading to 'hard' bilges to provide more stability for sailing. The rowing version has a slight "V" bottom leading to relatively slack bilges to reduce wetted surface and provide some directional stability.
The plans for the rowing version (page 138) include a full table of offsets.

Please let us know if you have a 'peapod'... send me photo(s), description and your experience with it. Send to tomoarcruising@gmail.com and I'll add a post.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Iain Oughtred’s “Mole”

If you want a traditional rowing boat, built in the traditional manner (plank on frame) then Mole would be a good choice.

Iain Oughtred's Mole

From "InTheBoatshed.net" Sept 1, 2007

Iain’s description:
“Mole is based on the traditional Thames working boats or water taxis. This a traditional rowing machine, with the capacity to carry one or at the most, two passengers. she is set up for a single rower, and the use of thole pins rather than fancy modern row locks is a feature.”
Plans Overview


  • LOA: 16’ (3.9m)
  • Beam: 44.5” (1130mm)
  • Depth: 16” (380mm)
  • Weight: 115 pounds (52kg)

See Iain Oughtred (Click "Catalog" >> Rowing Skiffs, scroll down to Mole) for plans and kit information.)