Mark Wallace's Black Skiff

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Bolger's Cartopper as an Oar Cruiser

In January 2017, we posted a review of Bolger's Cartopper. In that review, we suggested it could be converted into an oar cruiser. Using the plans published in Bolger's book, Boats with an Open Mind (page 25), I built an 8:1 model to illustrate how Cartopper could be converted without changing the hull shape.


Cartopper is11’6” by 4’ (3.5m by 1.2m), double chine with a bottom 2’ (61mm) wide…loaded (one person) water line width is about 3’ (91mm). She is built with taped seams from 4 sheets of plywood and weighs approximately 90 pounds (40.1 kg) as designed. Oars are 8' (2.4m) long.


This photo shows the floorboards in two sections so they can be removed from the sleeping compartment/cockpit that is approximately 7' (2.1m) long (between waterproof bulkheads located where frames 1 and 3 are in the plans), with the cockpit opening of 4' (1.2m). 3" (76mm) high coamings are added to the fore and aft decks. The king and queen planks are Western Red Cedar with the decks mitered into the edges. Inwales are added to the cockpit sides to strengthen the topsides because frame #2 has been eliminated.

Bolger's Cartopper

In this view, the foot of the mast under the foredeck, butted up against the forward bulkhead, is locked into the maststep at the forward edge of the floorboards.

Rudder Controls


The Mik Storer style holstered rudder is controlled by a shockcord (on the port side ending in a jam cleat) and on the starboard side by a control line running forward to the inwale.

At the bottom of the rudder holster there is a horizontal plate that is at waterline level. This plate matches in size the plate on the bottom of the rudder blade. These two plates increase the efficiency of the rudder, regardless of how deep the rudder blade is immersed.

Bottom of the Rudder 'Holster'

The plate on the bottom of the holster needs to be extended to the back of the rudder blade, but still open at the back so that the blade can pivot back if grounded.

Rudder Assembly 


Downwind sailing is powered by a 14 square foot (1.3 sq. m) sail hoisted on an 8' (2.4m) mast that is built in two 4' sections held together with a 1 & 3/4" ID (45mm) Carbon Fiber Oar Ferrule available from Duckworks. The two 4' sections and the sail can be rolled up and stored in the cockpit.

Cartopper with Downwind Sail

The sail is controlled by two sheets. The sheets run from the sail back to a dead eye, forward to a bollard and then to a jam cleat. The bollard idea came from Yrvind February 25, 2017 post.

Sail Controls

To help control downwind tracking, a 2 & 3/4" (70mm) deep full length skeg is added. The idea for this came from Clint Chase's Drake (see construction photos).

Full Length Skeg


The 'tent' shelter is supported by the mast. The foot of the mast has a small 'lip' on the forward edge which hooks under the king plank on the forward edge of the mast slot. Headroom under the tent at the after end of the cockpit is 42" (1.1m).

Mast as Shelter Support

The forward coaming is slightly relieved by a 1/2" (13mm) to keep the mast from sliding side to side. Just forward of the coaming are two dead eyes to provide anchors for a tie down that holds the mast on the coaming. Note that the mast slot is closed by a plug, held in place by shock cord, while rowing (not shown here).

Hold-down for the Mast Used as Tent Support

Tent Shelter in Place

This view, looking aft, shows the bottom of the large waterproof access hatch in the bulkhead which provides not only flotation, but many cubic feet of storage space while cruising.

Cockpit Looking Aft to the Bulkhead Access to Storage 

This oar cruiser really appeals to me: Compact, pretty, and ideal for weekend cruising in waters that jet skis and large cruisers can't reach.

Comments very welcome!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Richard Woods Bee: An Oar Cruiser

Richard Wood's Bee is one of two similar 'oar cruisers'... the other is Linnet.

Peter Kovacsy's Bee

Plans Overview of Bee


  • Length: 16’ (4.86m)
  • Beam: 4’ 3” (1.3m)
  • Weight: 108 pounds (49Kgs)
  • Carrying capacity:  4 Adults
  • Optional sail: 38 sq ft (3.5sqm)

Plans  available from:

Richard Woods
Fyne Boat Kits

Richard’s Commentary:

“BEE has a Vee bow which allows her to slice through a choppy sea. The moderate freeboard midships with reduced windage fore and aft plus the built in dagger-board case mean that sensible owners can take her out in coastal waters, in addition to all inland waterways.
BEE can also be fitted with a simple low rig for offwind sailing or when the crew is feeling lazy. Because of its light weight and easily driven hull, BEE will surprise with her speed. BEE can easily be rowed for long periods by one, or even by two… there's room for passengers and lots of gear. She is stable, so you don't need to be an expert to handle her.
Because of her light weight BEE can easily be cartopped, opening up many more cruising grounds. BEE is very easy to build using just 3 sheets of 4mm (3/16") and 3 sheets of 6mm (1/4") plywood, plus some timber and epoxy.”
Bee Car-topped

Peter Kovacsy site is a photo essay of his building Bee… His photography is beautiful, as well as his workmanship on Bee... as attested to by the following two photos...

Transom of Peter Kovacsy's Bee

Peter used Gaco locks on his Bee

This is an oar cruiser that is sea worthy, stable and able to carry a full set of equipment and supplies for cruising.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Wherry...

There are a number of ‘wherry’ types. For example, the ‘trading wherry' is double-ended, typically clinker planked, black hull with a white bow to aid visibility at night. They are gaff rigged, the sail historically black from being treated with a mixture of tar and fish oil to protect it from the elements. Sizes varied, but many of these vessels would carry about 25 tons of goods. Wherries were able to sail off the coast of England, off load cargoes from ships and then transport it inland through the broads and rivers.

Albion, One of 8 Surviving "Trading Wherries" (Photos: Wikimedia Commons)

Another type of wherry (more in keeping with the theme of this blog) was used as water taxis operated by watermen in Elizabethan times. These wherries were rowed by two men with long oars or by a single waterman using sculls. In 1555, Parliament specified that a wherry should be "22½ feet long and 4½ wide…”.

Thames River "Taxi" Wherries

In North America, particularly in the Penobscot Bay area (State of Maine), wherries became the preferred boat for the longshore Atlantic salmon fishery. They are generally long and narrow, with a straight stem, a wineglass stern and usually carvel planked.

John Gardner writes that the single characteristic that distinguishes a wherry is its flat bottom that allows the boat to ground out in an upright position and serves as a shoe for dragging the boat up and down the beach. The boat usually has two seats, one for the rower, and one in the stern sheets for the passenger, although longer ones can have a third seat forward. (Wikipedia: Wherry)

Both the wherry and the Thames Skiff (which evolved from the Wherry) are the lineage of many modern versions of “wherries”…

Modern Examples

Annapolis Wherry
  • Length: 17'9" (5.4m) 
  • Beam: 38" (0.97)
  • Hull weight: 65 pounds (29kg)

Annapolis Wherry from Chesapeake Light Craft

Cosine Wherry

  • Length: 14’ (4.3m)
  • Beam: 52” (1.3m)
  • Hull weight: 125 lbs. (57kg)

Cosine Wherry from White Salmon Boats

Duck Trap Wherry

  • Length: 16' (4.9m) 
  • Beam: 4'-2" (1.3m)
  • Hull weight: 145 pounds (65.8kg) or 100 pounds (45.4kg) for glued lap version

Duck Trap Wherry from Duck Trap Woodworking

Ruth (SOF) Wherry

  • Length: 18' (5.5m)
  • Beam: 33" (84cm)
  • Hull weight: 45 pounds (21kg)

Ruth Wherry from Dave Gentry

Oxford Wherry

  • Length: 15' 9" (4.9m)
  • Beam: 38: (0.97m)
  • Hull weight: 53 pounds (27kg)

Oxford Wherry from Colin Angus

Wineglass Wherry
  • Length: 14' (4.3m)
  • Beam: 48: (1.2m)
  • Hull weight: 90 pounds (41kg)

Wineglass Wherry from Pygmy Boats

Wherries make beautiful, sea-worthy and easy rowing boats. Let me know of other examples.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

CATCH: Another Passenger Seat

A couple of weeks ago, we had a post on various passenger seats for small boats. Rich Crook, of Oyster Bay Boats, sent me a photo of a passenger seat he made for a customer's boat.

Here's an enlargement of the 'engine room' and the passenger seat. The backrest attaches to the gunnels and the whole seat is easily removed and stored.

Rich Crook Passenger Seat

Take a look at his site... he does beautiful work!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

PTD as an Oar Cruiser

In a post on November 13, 2016, we reviewed the Pacific Troller Dory (PTD) by Butler Projects . I received a set of plans for Christmas (thanks, Al and Gail) and built a concept model to implement ideas for making the PTD into an oar cruiser as defined in this blog (see “About this Blog” in the column on the right).

The hull of the original design consists of the bottom, two garboard planks and two side planks… she is double-ended  and identical at both ends. The concept model’s (8:1 scale) bottom and garboard planks are identical to the original.

Below are photos and descriptions of what changes could be made to the PTD to make one version of an ‘oar cruiser’.

Overview of the Pacific Troller Dory as an Oar Cruiser
Concept Model of PTD

These two photos show the fore and aft decks. Each deck encloses a watertight compartment with access through a hatch in the bulkhead. These bulkheads are in the same location as in the plans; 3’ 10“ (1168mm) from each stem, with tops crowned 2” (51mm). Since the center thwart has been eliminated, the side planks are reinforced by an inwale fitted with spacer blocks. The cockpit interior is approximately 7’ (2134mm) long and the cockpit opening (at the deck level) is approximately 4’ 6” (1272mm) long.

Comparison of the PTD as an Oar Cruiser and as Designed

The top edge of the side planks were reshaped so that the top of the stem was lowered by 6” (152mm) and the center (midships) was raised 2” (51mm). The side by side comparison of the ‘as-planned’ hull on the right and revised hull on the left shows these changes, resulting in a reverse sheer with less windage at the ends and slightly more freeboard in the cockpit area… admittedly not as pretty as the original.

Interior, Looking Aft

This interior photo, looking aft, shows how a reverse reading compass could be mounted, floor boards for a dry sleeping platform and anchor for the movable foot rest (which also acts as a back rest when sitting on a cushion at anchor) and a way to store a Danforth anchor.

'Sanitation' Bucket Stored Under the Seat
Forward End of the Cockpit
These two photos show the forward spray shield, the movable seat (slotted into the floorboards) and how a 3 gallon bucket with Gamma Lid 11” (279mm) high can be stored under the seat.

Hoops to Support Tent Shelter

In order to provide weather protection while anchored, one option would be to use hoops (like a Conestoga Wagon) anchored in the inwales. Each end of the ‘tent’ would consist of two upside down triangles with the base of the triangle attached to the end hoop and each ‘peak’ would be hooked over a deck cleat. A full-length zipper running from the cleat up to the top of the hoop would enable the ends to be closed off or opened for access to the anchor line, etc.

Anchor Line Arrangement

Because the hull is narrow at both ends, access to the anchor line needs to be done from the cockpit. Fairleads could be bolted to each end of the deck, enabling anchoring from either end of this double ender. The anchor line would run from the cleat to the fairlead and back to the cockpit area for storage. When ready to anchor, a 12’ (3.5m) very light line with snap hook (caribiner) would be hooked onto the anchor line and tied off at the cockpit. Pulling on the light line would bring the anchor line back to the cockpit where the anchor could then be recovered.

I’d love to hear about  your comments on this concept oar cruiser.