Mark Wallace's Black Skiff

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Michalak's Robote: Easy Build, Easy Row

Jim Michalak has designed a number of deep-V boats (no chines in the water) including Vireo (as an oar cruiser ), WeeVee a 7’ 6” (2.3m) dinghy and Robote. My own Ross Lillistone Flint is also a deep-V design. My experience rowing Flint and Vireo is that the deep-V design provides a fast hull with low resistance… initially a little ‘tiddily’ but as soon as the chine gets into the water, they become very stable.

Robote is really an extended Vireo… 14’ (4.3m) long, 45” (1.14m) wide, weighing approximately 60 pounds (27.2Kg) as designed.

Frank Kahr's Robote

Plans for Robote

Frank Kahr wrote (in the Duckworks Robote Page) about his participating in the “Blackburn Challenge” in his Robote…
"Wind was SE 15+, rising, with 2-3' chop off the ocean. I rowed about 10 miles, then ran for cover in Pigeon Cove. The alternative was several more miles of windward slog followed by more miles of crosswind. It would have been too much for me." 
"The boat was dry, in good control always. It will cope with conditions in which you have no business being out."
I built a concept model for an oar cruiser based on the Robote design.

Concept Model of an Oar Cruiser Based on Robote

Interior of the Robote Concept Model

Following are the changes and additions:

  • Re-shaped the sheer line in order to decrease windage at the ends of the boat and increase freeboard at the cockpit… lowered top of the stem by 5¼” (133mm), lowered top of the transom by 1” (25mm) and raised the sheer at section 8 (midships) by 3½” (89mm)
    Profile Showing How Windage was Reduced
  • Added a fore deck (crowned 2” [51mm]) 6’ 8” (2m) long, an aft deck, also crowned, 3’ 5” (1m) long and side decks 10” (254mm) wide. The ‘headroom’ under the aft end of the foredeck down to the top of the floorboards is 18” (0.46m).
  • Eliminated the temporary mold at section 5, added a permanent bulkhead at section 4 and converted the temporary mold at section 11 to a permanent bulkhead. Both bulkheads have large waterproof hatches for access to watertight storage compartments.
  • Added floorboards approximately 7’ (2.1m) long to the 7’ 6” ‘sleeping area. The cockpit opening is 4’ (1.2m) long, with a 3” (76mm) coaming on all four sides.
  • I added ‘hoops’ to support a ‘tent’ for rain protection at night and, when the sides are taken down and the ends are partially rolled up, sun protection while rowing.

The decks, large waterproof end compartments, increased freeboard at the cockpit all make this a rowboat that could be taken out in rougher conditions than most rowboats. Jim’s deep “V” hull makes for a boat that is very easy to row and that tracks well. Carrying capacity for equipment and stores, in waterproof compartments is high, sufficient for at least a week’s cruise.

I could envision a mid-fall cruise down Barnegat Bay, after most of the boats have gone to rest for the winter… anchoring off (or inside) the many state and national parks and wildlife refuges along the way… cool weather, no greenhead flies… plenty of interesting places to visit.

Love to see your comments below…


  1. Between Robote and Flint which do you thnk would be more all round capable? Flint's ability to be rowed while fully swamped in the open version is persuasive for me

  2. Hi Christopher. (sorry for the delay getting back to you... 'stuff' happens)
    I assume you are talking about a 'stock' Robote (NOT how I built the concept model)... Flint has built-in flotation under the foredeck and the 'seat' aft... Robote has no built-in flotation... this will make Flint easier to reboard and it will float a little higher (more freeboard) than Robote with no built-in flotation.
    Both boats would be a real bear to row when swamped!.. a swamped boat, unless it has flotation high up, is very unstable.
    On the other hand, Robote as a proposed OarCruiser, would be better if swamped because of 1) the side decks and 2) the flotation aft is higher up (deck level) than on Flint. Although I doubt you could reboard 'OarCruiser' Robote without shipping a lot of water (but not as much as Flint).
    Hope this helps... Tom