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A Gear Shift for Oars, Courtesy of Chris Cunningham, Small Boats Monthly

Sunday, October 23, 2016

John Welsford's Joansa as an Oar Cruiser

One of John Welsford’s beautiful boats is Joansa, a 15’ 6” (4.6m) rowing boat. With some relatively minor modifications, none of which change the hull, she can be turned into a fine oar cruiser.  First, let’s look at Joansa as designed.

Rick Fletcher’s Joansa with an added foredeck

Rick has done a beautiful job in building his Joansa… his site  contains detailed photos of every building step, along with a description of what he did, and why. For anyone building a plywood lapstrake boat, this site is well worth a visit and study.

Frames with bottom planks installed
Interior of Rick’s Joansa with foredeck beams installed

My thoughts on making this an ‘oar cruiser’ as I define it in this blog would be to do the following:

  • Add a water-tight bulkhead, with large access hatch, at each end of a 7’ (2.1m) rowing/sleeping cockpit, eliminating the designed fore- and aft-seats
  • Add a set of floorboards to the cockpit to provide a dry sleeping platform and attachment points for rowing seat and foot rests
  • Add a fore- and aft-deck, using skin-on-frame, that results in a cockpit opening of 4’ to 5’ (1.2m to 1.5m) long. These decks would partially cover the ends of the sleeping area.
  • Add a frame to support a ‘tent’ to provide sitting headroom and rain protection for sleeping. See the post on shelters for ideas on how to do this.

In private correspondence with John Welsford, he told me he saw no issue with these modifications.

Joansa has excellent rough water capabilities

John Welsford:
“I drew Joansa for myself, it was well past midwinter and someone had taken my boat away and not returned it.  Oh, they’d given me a handful of money for it, but a couple of months later and thinking that I might not be on the water the coming summer I was halfway regretting selling her. 
So I sat down and thought about it. 
Here in Auckland, New Zealand we have a lot of long tidal estuaries, not used a lot for boating, plus we’ve a great collection of islands just off the coast.   With two small children in the family and a full time job meant that time for building a new boat was limited. So Joansa was drawn up to be a fast rowing boat, one that could carry all of us out for a picnic, or me plus camping gear for a few days, and to make sure I was back home on the nominated day it needed to be able to carry a small outboard. 
Joansa eventuated, based loosely on the Amesbury Dory Skiffs native to that town on the north eastern coast of the USA, but much much lighter and with the stern widened just a little to carry the 2 hp Honda outboard I had at the time. 
She has a flat panel  bottom to emulate the Dory style. Three plywood planks a side over stringers held by plywood web frames, bouyancy built in under the forward and after seats, and a traditional working boat gunwale with its double stringers and blocking.
It took me about 2 months part time to build, probably about 50 hours or so to get her ready to paint.. Mind you I was drawing the plans as I went so that took a few of those hours.  I didn’t make a fancy job of her, I’m a fan of “tidy workboat” finishes but I did put some time into a really nice pair of oars, that makes a huge difference to a sporting rowing boat and I’ve included drawings for those in the plans. 
That first summer saw me win an 8 mile rowing race for fixed seat boats, explore two major estuaries I’d not been on before, and escorted by my wife Denny in her kayak, me carrying all the gear and our daughter spent 10 days camp cruising among the islands and inlets north of Auckland.  
Sometimes the simplest boats give the greatest pleasure."

Plans are available on John's site.

Joansa Specifications

Tell us in the Comments below what you think of Joansa as an ‘Oar Cruiser’.

PS: "Joansa" is an amalgamation of three of John's children's names: John, Jan and sarina... Brendan was born after Joansa was launched and named.

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