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Vinegar-Stroke

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A (Not So) Radical Oar Cruiser

Sam Devlin’s Mallard is a boat designed for duck hunting.

Sam Devlin's Mallard

The design is based on the Barnegat Bay (New Jersey) Sneak-box. The big difference between Mallard and the Sneak-box is that the Sneak-box has the deck and bottom meet at the sheer line and is carvel planked.

Mallard, on the other hand, is built with plywood, is V-bottomed and has narrow topsides. However, though constructed differently, the overall design concept is very similar. The adaptation by Sam Devlin enables Mallard to be easily converted into small oar cruiser for protected waters.

And the design is quite capable of extended oar cruising: In 1876, Nathaniel Bishop rowed a sneak-box (Centennial Republic) 2600 miles down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, sleeping aboard (under a wooden hatch) many nights. Bishop’s book (Four Months in a Sneak-Box) is available, free, at this link.

Plan Overview of the Centennial Republic


Details of the Centennial Republic

Note that Sneakboxes (15’/4.6m) and Duck Boats (12’/3.7m) (example) are two sailing class boats still being raced in Barnegat Bay, looking almost like they did over 140 years ago. In the late 1950’s, I helped my father build about 15 Duck Boats for the Bay Head (NJ) and Island Heights (NJ) Yacht Clubs.

Mallard Specifications:


  • Length 12’ – 11”/4.6m
  • Beam 4’ – 10”/1.5m
  • Draft 5”/127mm
  • Design: “V” bottom with 15° deadrise
  • (Maximum of 15hp Outboard)
  • 8’/2.4m oars would be about right for the 4’ 4”/1.3m span (oarlock to oarlock) 
  • Displacement 155 lbs/70 Kg (Design specifies 3/8” (9mm) plywood for hull and ¼” (6mm) for deck)
  • Max Load 580 lbs/263 Kg

Overview of Mallard plans

Commentary from Sam Devlin:

“This is an old and venerable design by now with the first design and boat built more than 20 years ago as I write this. She is of the “SneakBox” type of boat with the transom accommodating up to a 15 hp outboard motor, but she also rows or poles very well. In fact, of all the “SneakBox” types of boats that we design and build, the little Mallard is the best at rowing. There is positive foam 3 point flotation that allows the boat to float level and upright even if the cockpit were full of water.” 

Suggestions for an ‘Oar Cruiser’ version:


  • To reduce weight, I’d build with ¼”/6mm plywood, since I would not use any outboard
  • Reduce the size of the cockpit opening, unless I was planning to carry a passenger
  • Make the coamings higher than the 1-3/8” (35mm) specified, especially the forward and aft ones, and raise the oarlocks a corresponding amount. See the post on Rowing Geometry for how to set up foot rest, rowing seat, oar locks and oar length.
  • Add a removable rowing seat and foot brace.
  • Add a temporary ‘tent’ shelter.

Please comment below: From your perspective, how feasible is Mallard as a protected waters Oar Cruiser?


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