Mark Wallace's Black Skiff

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.


  1. Hi Tom - As you know, I stretched my 16' oarcruiser out to 18', this seems just right to me. There's space to store stuff for longer trips and enough room to stand up and move around. Longer waterline should mean a little more speed too. 12' seems pretty short, unless there is a storage issue on land, or if this lets you make it car toppable, I'd go longer.

    1. Rick, you are right... longer is better, up to about 17-18 feet, for oar powered boats.
      The rationale for "...Less Than 12 Feet..." is that up to 12 feet requires no registration (in New Jersey)... and requires less space for storage.
      Hope all is well with you (and belated Happy Father's Day)...

    2. Ah, that's a good reason. For CA any length human powered boat does not need reg.

    3. Good for California!!!
      I live in Newark, NJ... not exactly a boating capital of the world... when I went to the local Motor Vehicle Division office to register the (Lillistone) Flint I built... it took about 3 hours... ends up that the office had not registered a home built boat in at least 20 years... the supervisor and clerk (with a combined 35 years experience in the MVD) had to first find the regulations, then interpret them, and then finally get it registered.

    4. Similar story when I did register the boat (for sailing). Several hours at DMV while they figured out what to do. When I got home, the HIN they had assigned did not look right, not the same format as others. I called CG, they said that is not a valid HIN. Back to DMV, lots more paperwork to de-register, then re-register with a legit HIN.

  2. Interesting design and suggestions for conversion to a cruising rowing boat.At 75 I'm a fairly mature amateur boating enthusiast. I currently sail a 11 ' Gull dinghy and 15' sailing and other Duckpunt. One difficulty I often encounter is getting into and out of these craft as I am normally on my own so getting in, pushing off and orientating all at the same time. I am interested in the hoop structures which provide for night cover support which I take to be permanent structures. These are giving me food for thought in that they may (provide a steadying hand hold)be helpful getting launched or getting out when beached or alternatively (possibly get in the way)when launching.... getting into the boat and pushing it forward into deeper water at the same time. The jury in my mind is out at present time giving thought to various contingencies. Which makes of course this subject so interesting.

    1. Andrew, The 'hoops' are bolted in with wing nuts, so that they could be left 'home' if going for a day row. Regarding launching... two things I do to help (I'm a couple years older than you)...Bought a pair of rubber boots, calf high, at Walmart for about $15... this especially helpful in cold water... Second: when launching from ramp or beach, push boat out until the stem is right at the edge of the water... then crawl over the bow, with hands on each side of the gunnels (balancing the boat) and crawl to the cockpit...move as far aft as I can and the bow lifts off the beach/ramp and I can shove the boat into deeper water with a push of an oar. Note: I tried this one time with the mast in place and ended up in the mud with a LOT of water in the boat... never did that again.

    2. Hi Tom,
      Thanks.I take on board notes you make concerning your method of launching which may suit some of my launching predicaments.

    3. I use a wooden arch to support a forward dodger. The arch spans athwartwise instead of fore-aft like Tom's. It was not intended for holding onto, but is plenty sturdy and I find it very reassuring to have a place to grab when stepping aboard or when standing in the boat.

  3. Sounds good Rick, one to consider.