Lit’l Petrel Design Notes

Here is a simple little Pram style dinghy that can be built from a few sheets of 1/4 inch marine plywood using the Stitch and Glue method of construction and weighs not much more than a feather. She will fit on the deck or the back stern of a larger vessel and is designed and built strongly to hold up to the strains of the life of a proper tender to a large mothership while being a blast to row and use thus allowing exploration of many waters.

This whole idea of using a pram style dinghy is really a sound one with remarkable stability for the users in any area of the boat. Imagine rowing with your first mate to the shore of some strange shoreline to spend the afternoon walking around looking for evidence of old civilizations or some strange animal you are stalking. Once you beach one of these simple boats, you can walk off the bow without the instability of a pointed bow skiff that would need to be beached by the stern to give the same sort of stability. She can carry all the needs for the afternoon, a picnic lunch, or perhaps something cool to drink after a brisk walk and nothing beats a beachside picnic after a nice morning of exploring — it is truly one of our favorite activities while cruising. I am reminded of my old friend, Heine Dole, who cruised the Northwest Coast in his beloved Evening Star clear up into his mid 90s with his wife as his only crew. He showed me a collection of pictures of him sitting for a series of years next to the same river on the same overhanging log, with a Kermode Bear (one of the rare white colored Spirit Bears of northern British Columbia) sitting next to him intently looking into the water for a spawning salmon with Heine sitting closer to the bear each year and in the final year, the bear and Heine literally an arms length apart from each other. I must say that inspired me to the thought that our lovely wilderness here in the Northwest could keep me happy for my entire life just as it had done for Heine for all those years. It takes a skiff or a dinghy such as this Litl Petrel to allow us to work our way into the mouth of a river or onto the shore for exploring sessions.

One of the finest features of the pram style vessel is its capability of taking on additional weight beyond what it might have optimally been originally designed for without adversely affecting the performance of the boat. For instance with another 110 lbs of load, the Litl Petrel design only sits an additional inch deeper into the water and still rows very well. Sink her an additional 4 inches and she can carry a total load of almost 700 lbs — this is a very versatile design.

This design does need to have a couple of sheets of marine plywood to be joined end to end to give us long enough panels to build her but this is an easy task and if you have the luxury of buying one of our new kits for her, we have the scarfs already precut and ready for you to glue them together and then assemble the boat. A great little boat — very easy to build, good capacity and very useable in real life use. Strongly built, she is a great option as the tender to a larger mothership or you can use her on her own.

Plans cost $65 dollars and with a few sheets of 1/4 inch marine plywood, a few gallons of epoxy and a couple of planks of 3/4 inch hardwood, you can build your own version. Her weight of 63 lbs. will allow you to handle her without straining your back and she is a great project boat, perfect for teaching your kids or grandkids how to build something in a world where most of us have completely detached from building anything with our own hands..What a fine way to spend a few hours, both building and using her!

— Sam Devlin

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1 thought on “Lit’l Petrel Design Notes

  1. Can I put a small motor on the transam such as a electric or small horsepower gas? Would I want to modify the transaction? Do you know can I download the plans onto a iPhone? And then store in I books? What would you think of using one of those 4″ circular saws to cut out the parts as it might fair? Previously cuilt a Cracker.

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