Category Archives: Boat


Should probably stop…

…announcing new boat designs. I have gone through four designs so far, each time thinking I was done. Well now I am actually done. Pretty much.

Why am I done now instead of being done the last few times? It’s a little to do with optimisation and a lot to do with finding an awesome boat!

Last time I posted I mentioned something called a Harryproa. The interesting thing about this type is the accomodation is situated in the windward hull and the rig is situated in the lee hull. The result of this is greater stability due to the distribution of sail force and weight of passengers. However all the designs I saw were too small and had too small a payload. Until I saw ‘Sidecar’ by Doug Haines, a modified Elementarry Harryproa. I based my design around it, and this is where the optimisation came in. I needed a greater payload available, but I also didn’t want to waste wood making something fat and slow (like my other designs).

The hulls are 20’x2’x2′ for the lee and 14’x3’x4′ for the windward. The 20′ hull can be made out of 4 sheets of oversized ply with very little waste. The 14′ hull will take a few more regular sized boards, but the accomodation section has been designed with space and ease of building in mind. The whole thing can be stitched-and-glued and there is no complex geometry. I should have about 300-500kg max payload without having to sacrifice much in the way of speed.

Then I designed the crossbeam fastenings, the crossbeam supports and the internal bulkheads. There will be space to sleep two and a 2′ x 2′ x 7′ store in the 14′ hull. The 20′ will have a 2′ x 2′ x 6′ store for light objects. The remaing hull space can be filled with structural foam to make it theoretically unsinkable (touch wood).

All I need to do is design the mast to be stepped into the crossbeams like on ‘Madness’, but I need to see whether that is a good idea. So I’m going to bother the nice people on the boatdesignforums.

Also just got the call yesterday, my school is hosting OFSTED for the next two days…wish me luck!

Drawing and Thinking

I was doing a lot of drawing yesterday, literally all day sat looking at boat designs, making modifications. It was all extremely enjoyable and eventually I had myself a set of study plans, all to scale.

It, She, The Mastodon looks good, just exactly what I want from a boat. Cabin space, deck space, simple mast and rigging (er…), easy to build (um…), small and easy to handle….damn, I think I may have failed on those last three points.

Sure, you might think that 18′ is plenty small for a boat, but when you include the outrigger (ama) then it starts to get pretty heavy and unwieldly. Pretty much no chance of paddling it if I needed to, and that’s my measure of boat size. I have only ever handled a kayak before.

Mastodon has two masts and two rigs. This was fine in my imagination before I actually started to think about how to build them. It’s a lot of canvas, rope, battens and pole to be fitting. Furthermore, the setup involves stepping the masts to the keel. What that means is the mast goes through the deck and is attached to the floor of the boat. This would mean that the part of the boat that takes the most stresses would be 9mm from the sea. Even if I reinforced it at the base, that still leaves a hole in the deck. Simple enough I guess, but not as simple as possible. Plus I would need to do it twice.

Furthermore with the building complexity, Mastodon main hull requires 9 bulkheads. That is 9 perfectly shaped wooden boards that must cross the hull to give it lateral support. That doesnt include the actual prow either. Then I would need another 5-7 for the outrigger. The whole design also requires more than 500 sq ft of plywood, including ten complicated scarf joints.

The complexity is just going up and up the more I think about it. It’s not that I think myself unable to complete the project, but I am almost certain that it would be over time and over budget.

Simplification. I need simplification.

There are some more links at the bottom that helped. It took me until past 3am but I have a plan again. Meet The Mastodon 14′! (The name is getting less appropriate! Perfect.) Click for a higher resolution image.


The red shows 9mm plywood, the blue is 48mm aluminium scaffold and the black is a photoshop job of two front ends of ‘Paradox’.  This is actually my plan, ‘Paradox’ is a well proven design, it’s the right size, and I can easily buy plans for it.

I estimate that this boat will have an unladen displacement of 200kg! Means that by herself she will probably sit about an inch in the water. With myself, my stuff, food and a few other people she might get up to 500kg, which should have her sitting a mere six inches in the water. For people who don’t know much about boats, low displacement means speed.

The simplifications are:
1: 4 foot shorter. Means 3 fewer complicated scarf joints.
2: Deck stepped mast. Its now attached to the scaffold frame.
3: There is also only one mast and rig that does not have to make holes in the deck.
4: Because I am appropriating from plans, the bulkheads will have been designed for me.

The outrigger has been reduced in length by 2′ down to 10′. I am considering trying to make it less than 8′ so the sides can be just one piece of ply. That would reduce my scarf joint total to just 3! However the downside is that I would have to fiddle with some awkward angles on my scaffold crossbeams, come up with a different attachment method at the prows, or make the crossbeams out of different  material. Any of my options, be it 8′ or 10′ adds it’s own complexity, so I will just have to see which I dislike the least.

That pretty much solves all of the issues I had with the 18′ design. As you can see it is the same shape and has the same sq ft of accommodation. There is one berth on the lee pod and up two on the floor. Also in nice weather there is the option to sleep on the decking. Actual decking dimentions are to be confirmed.

So as I was saying, I had been growing more uncomfortable about my design. My “Aha!” moment came when I logged onto and and began looking around.

The Harryproa designs and highly unconventional and I toyed about with making my own version until that complexity demon started creeping.

Sansboussole is another very interesting site about two French adventurers who have crossed the Atlantic with no instruments of any kind, solely navigating by the stars! It was their design of Micromega 5 that made me decide that my stubby little Proa would work.

So I am back on track with a cheaper and simpler design. If you have any boar know-how please let me know your thoughts in the comment section. Or if you know anyone who would be interested then please let them know.

Thank you for reading!

The Mastodon

Philosophy aside, lets get into the actual specifics of the boat. I have spent about a year and a half refining my ideas and looking at various configurations.
My requirements are:
1. Needs to be small enough to be sailed solo, but large enough to accomodate two people.
2. Must be large enough for extended travel away from civilisation, between two weeks and a month.
3. Must be small enough that I can drag it up a beach in an emergency.
4. Must have space to store a kayak.
5. Must be simple to build.
6. Should have ample deck space for relaxing on sunny days.

It would be a thousand times easier to just buy a boat instead of make one, and I’m sure I could get one that satisfies most of my needs to an adequate degree for a reasonable price. Decent boats can go for as little as 2000GBP. (my stupid foreign keyboard doesn’t have a pound sign) But there are some problems with that. Primarily because these boats, while in good repair will almost certainly be 30 to 40 years old. That pretty much guarantees that they will need regular maintenance from the go. A noob like me, with no sailing or woodworking experience is not going to have a chance of doing it properly. However, if I have made the entire thing, then I will know exactly where and what the problem is should one arise.
Thats the logical consideration.
Emotionally speaking, I can scarcely imagine the satisfaction of cruising around in a boat you made from scratch, exactly to your specifications, no compromise.

For those wondering why I think I am capable of building and sailing a boat with no experience, well, for better or for worse, I am not familiar with self doubt. I have done extensive research and I am confident this project falls well within my limitations.

At the bottom of this post I have added links to some websites that have steered me in helpful directions and provided inspiration. The full list would be ten times as long if I could remember all the webpages I have visited since the thought first popped into my head. Veterans like Sven Yrvind and Matt Layden are exactly the people you want to be taking advice from when it comes to sailing small boats.

After lots of reading, the state of the art for small boats is widely accepted to be Matt Layden’s ‘Paradox’, and Sven Yrvind’s ‘Yrvind’ (links below). These boats are 13′ 10″ and 15′ respectively. They are mono-hull and shallow draft. The ‘Paradox’ being the easiest to build because there are plans on sale.

However neither of these designs could fulfil all of my requirements. Specifically they were too small to comfortably house two people and I could not store a kayak on either. A little more research and Quenet Yann (boat-et-koad) stepped up to the plate. A man who has built and tested an 18′ version of the shallow draft boats invented by Matt Layden. I looked at his design, did some cost calculations and was stoked for a while, thinking that I had found my design. After a while however doubts started to set in. Would it be right for my needs? Would the effort of building be offset by the advantages of having it tailored to my needs?
I started losing enthusiasm for the whole project and thought I might as well just buy one for cheap and find ways around the limitations.

For those nautically challenged, shallow draft (the amount of boat under the water) is necessary for me for several reasons. Firstly it allows me to avoid many submerged obstacles, secondly it is necessary for beaching, thirdly, flat bottomed craft are much easier to build.

My ‘buy and make do’ opinion changed completely when I saw this!

Boom! The 31′ ‘Madness’ Designed by John Harris. What a beast. Much too big and expensive for me of course, but it sent the cogs turning once more.

This type of boat is a Proa, a very old micronesian type. The basic point is that the smaller of the two hulls, known as the Ama, is used instead of a keel and ballast to offset the sideways force on the sails. What that essentially means is that the boat can be lighter and carry more sail than a similarly sized mono-hull.

The immediate benefits for me are:
1. Plenty of storage space in the Ama.
2. Can have a shallow draft.
3. No heeling (leaning sideways).
4. Plenty of ‘deck’ space for crusing comfortably in the sun.
5. Plenty of main hull space for sleeping.
6. Can keep my kayak onboard.

Long story short, I have roughed out a design for an 18′ Pacific Proa, ‘Mastodon’ by Daniel Powell Conti.

This is the basic design that I made 3D with a bit of free google software. I did a pretty poor job of replicating the details of the actual design, but it will do to get across my idea. It was my first time using the software and took about an hour. The next model will be much more accurate.


More on that in my next post, its lunch time now.

For anyone interested here are some links that I found extremely helpful.

Why a boat?

One of my ambitions for the coming few years is to build a Boat that is large enough to live in, but small enough to run up a beach should the weather get really terrible.

I have no intention of dying at sea.

I drafted a few starts to this post and one thing struck me, that all of the points I wanted to make could be misconstrued in the larger context of ‘freedom’ and ‘privelige’.

I am aware that, compared to the majority of the people in the world I am highly priveliged, and free to a greater extent. But still I don’t feel that I am living the right way. Its the classic eat, work, sleep, repeat that leaves me, and I imagine many others, just waiting for the weekend, or the holidays. I have repeatedly, verbally expressed my desire for whole months of my life to be over so that I can get to the next ‘thing’, the next event that I am looking forward to. It makes me sad, but that does not change the fact that it is true.

The point is that any mode of life that has someone wishing it away cannot be right, but this is where my dilemma comes in, because I am very aware that most people are in similar or worse situations. In the undeveloped world people are stuck in poverty, they won’t have as many things to look forward to as me. If one instantly swapped lives with me they probably would look forward to things that I take for granted. Even in the developed world people are stuck. Sure there is more money, but things are more expensive. Im not saying life isn’t better here, but I would argue that it is no more free. Just a more pleasant captivity, where we get fat by accident instead of getting horrible parasites. Where we can’t go to other countries because we couldn’t save enough instead of being trapped by conflict.

I’m not saying its isn’t better, I’m saying it’s not more free.

“So what, you are a priveliged westerner, shut up and drink your frappichino.” True that. I was born relatively priveliged, but I don’t want to take it for granted. I also don’t want to waste this opportunity.

I feel like I can’t complain about society because I take full advantage of all of it’s benefits on a daily basis, and plenty of people could say “swap with me then” and I would have to say no.

So, I know my life is relatively sweet. I’m not rich by UK standards, but I’m not poor. However that still puts me in the top 10% in the world.

I know I’m lucky, but surely thats all the more reason to go for it?

Back to the point, to explain why I want to live in a boat. Because living in a boat is the closest I can get to being free. Exactly what I mean by free is the subject of its own post, but simply I think that more freedom can be achieved by whittling away at the things that one depends upon.

In the UK I depend upon my job, I depend upon my car to get me to my job, I depend upon the bank, petrol companies, the roads, the supermarket, the internet, the plug socket. I could get more trivial ad infinatum, but those are the main things. Sure, on a boat there is a long list of things I depend upon. The wind, the waves, my hull and sails, my fishing rod, my wind turbine, my clothes. The difference is, what I rely upon in the UK is entirely out of my hands. I can’t fix my car by myself, I can’t fix the internet myself, and those are the things that I could learn to fix. I cannot have the ability to fix all of the things that I rely on in the UK. I think of them as ‘Big’ things.

However on my boat, everything that I depend upon is dependent on me. If any of my things break I can fix them, even the hull and the sails, because I will have built them in the first place. Even the wind and waves depend on my reaction to them. Like I said at the start, I do not intend to die at sea, so I’m not going to do anything stupid. Because I can fix them I see them as “little’ things.

My problem is that I don’t like relying on ‘Big’ things. I have a perpetual gremlin on my shoulder reminding me that I can’t get to work because of the traffic, that I can’t live wherever I want because I can’t afford it, that I can’t do whatever I like because I need my job. I love my job by the way, and anyone who has met me will know that I am a happy chap. The feeling of these ‘Big’ things is more like an existential ennui than sadness.

On a boat I do not have to pay to live, to travel, to eat, so I will not depend on my job. I will wake up to a different view whenever I want it. There will be no rush hour, petrol costs, licenses, taxes. There will be no deadlines.

Perhaps I am overstating it, I don’t know. But soon I will.