Mark Wallace's Black Skiff

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What's a 'Walkabout'?

1) Oxford Dictionaries ( defines 'Walkabout' as "A journey on foot undertaken by an Australian Aboriginal in order to live in the traditional manner."

2) John Welsford ( and ( has a different view of what a "Walkabout" could be...

John's view:
Walkabout profile

Cross section about mid-ships, with tent

Profile with sails furled and tent cabin

  • Length 16'2" (5m)
  • Beam 5' (1.5m)
  • Weight (approx) 200lbs (92kg)
  • Sail Area  80sq ft (7.5sqm)
These two 'build' photos show the interior construction:

Credit Wayne Jorgensen

Credit Wayne Jorgensen

Rick Thompson built his Walkabout and made the following changes to the original design:
  • Stretched LOA by 8% to 17' 10" (5.44m) to accommodate two rowers. (Rick comments that using two rowers did not significantly increase speed and says that for long distances, it is better for the two rowers to take turns than both rowing together)
  • Used a single lug rig (designed by John Welsford) rather than the original yawl rig, which required making a removable mast step and gated partner just forward of bulkhead #2
  • Replaced the fixed seat rowing with a sliding seat
  • Eliminated the dagger board and dagger board case
  • Replaced the tiller with rope steering (Rick only uses the sail for downwind sailing)
  • Changed the shape of the cockpit coaming to make the build easier
  • Modified the stern compartment to provide more storage space and added a large access hatch, plus top hatches to access the side compartments
  • Redesigned the tent shelter in order to use laminated bows rather than removable bent rods
  • Added a bowsprit to hold the anchor.
Rick Thompson's Custom Walkabout

Interior showing many of the custom features

Fore and aft sections of tent can be folded down, and rowed as shown

Fully buttoned up for the night.

John has designed a beautiful boat (as are all of his boats), refined, practical and highly functional.

And Rick has taken that design and, with great skill, created a gorgeous oar cruiser.

John writes (taken from with permission):

"I imagine a night at anchor with the spruce looking ghostly against the almost black water, the clatter of a pair of ducks getting up and perhaps the curious sharp cough of a deer the only sounds. Memories of a booming reach with both sails pulling like a train and the boat riding like a duck over the long ocean rollers, of rowing silently a few yards off the shore in glassy calms and of the crunch of tiny waves on a shingle beach, memories of sunsets, of deserted island and unspoiled coves, of morning birdsong and the splash of a fish all combine to make that other world seem very far away.
Going Walkabout? You bet."

Let me know about other oar powered boats that either are, or could be easily converted to, oar cruisers.


  1. Lovely blog thanks for link via JW forum
    Arwen's meanderings

  2. Hi Steve... Thanks... I almost always read Arwen's Meanderings... Good stuff.