Eider Design Notes

I was a much younger man back in 1978 and my fledgling design and Boatbuilding Company was also very young and we needed a small cabin sailboat design to build as a stock boat, one that could bring on a bit of regularity to our rather spotty and erratic cash flow.  I wanted her to be trailerable and accommodate a couple in cruising mode with some shelter from the elements, but it was also important that she have a really large cockpit that could handle a couple of extra bodies for day sailing purposes.  The result was a design called the Eider (after the duck) and we managed to build about a dozen of these little boats before moving onto other designs and builds.  She was a great little boat with all the look and panache of larger boats but in a very compact and trailerable package.  Unfortunately I never drew up the design for home builder construction and while all the original boats are still floating about and much beloved by their owners we just didn’t have anything in our quiver of home builder plans that captured the particular niche that the little “Eider” did.

Now in my middle age I will still see some of those little boats sailing about and it always bring on memories of a far simpler day when a personal little boat made so much sense, easy to care for, easy to trailer, and most importantly easy and rewarding to sail.  So I decided to go back to the drawing board and apply myself to the concept but with some of the experience of the years kicked in and the result is this new little design once again called the “Eider”.

I wanted to give her a centerboard for sailing about in some of the shallower waters that we might find, and for the fact that with the board up she will load to a low powerboat type trailer and not need a deep and steep ramp to launch or retrieve.  Her rig is one of my favorites being a gaff sloop with a jib that if needed can have a bit of a boom attached and could be set self-tacking. But for my purposes I still don’t mind tacking a jib, and the extra efficiency of a properly sheeted jib is not to be discounted.  A small bowsprit fit the look and style of the new design and it gives the boat a much more shippy feel.  All is not just about efficiency these days as sailing a boat that looks a bit whimsical is part of the appeal of an afternoon spent scooting about paying attention to the zephyrs.  Her small cabin has good room to sleep two with a bit of extra space for gear to be stowed and not have to be moved out of the cabin when the sleeping bags are unrolled.  In years past we had great times on the “Eiders” with a simple wooden galley box that held a small butane stove, a couple of Pyrex pie dishes for a combo bowl/plate and if stocked with a couple of cans of beef stew along with a good loaf of bread and a little cheese, a great dinner can be had in about 10 minutes.  Back that up with a proper bottle of red wine and a banquet suitable for royalty can be set.  I love the idea of the cabin if for nothing more than the sense of security that it gives if the evening wind dies and I really don’t feel like lighting up the little outboard and bearing a long motor back to home.  I can just toss the hook out, tidy up the lines of the boat; have a drink and a good cigar, contemplating the day’s adventures and later a spot of dinner, a bit of time with a good book in the evening light to read, and early to bed.

The Mast is set in a tabernacle and folds down without much fuss; a simple Cross arm support on the cockpit seats makes for an easy lash up for trailering.

I put a self bailing cockpit on her to allow me to not have to keep her bailed out when on a mooring or at the dock.  You could build her without the self bailing cockpit and end up with a far more comfortable seating geometry but it’s just too tempting to be able to leave her without worrying about rowing out and bailing her on a daily basis in our rainy Northwest Spring and Fall.  On the other hand maybe it would be a good discipline to go for a short row daily to check on her and give my arms some workout to boot!

Amateur plans are $175 and consist of 13 drawings printed on 24X36 inch paper and a simple building booklet.  We are planning to produce simple hull and bulkhead panel kits for her and look forward to seeing many of these little sloops on the water.

– Sam Devlin

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Oarling II

OarlingVertSleek lines and a beautiful sheer make the Oarling a delight to row and own. She is light, responsive and easily maneuvered, providing great transportation for the single oarsman or with passengers and cargo. Dory hulls with their characteristic flare pick up displacement very fast and lose little performance when loaded or in rough sea conditions.

At 95 lbs. the Oarling is a very car-toppable boat, easy for one person to handle. She is a little longer and much faster than the Gloucester Gull-type dory and the extra length seems to pay dividends in versatility. Folding pattern oarlocks and eight foot spoon blade oars give her a lot of power. In the Northwest, Oarling has made some respectable showings in rowing regattas and meets.

A flotation seat compartment and the natural buoyancy of her wood make her unsinkable. For leisure rowing, or as an exercise machine, a more graceful and beautiful rowing boat would be hard to find.

The Oarling is available in plans and CNC precision cut kit.

 

Oarling II Specifications

Length 17 ft. – 3 13/16 in.
Beam 3 ft. – 10.5 in.
Draft 6 in.
Displacement 331 lbs.
Dry Weight 85 lbs.
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Candlefish 13

The Candlefish 13 is a versatile small fishing boat. Originally designed to be a cartoppable fishing skiff for high latitude rivers and lakes, she has also proven to be an excellent yacht tender.

With one person aboard, she only draws about 4.5 inches. On an ultimate hunting trip, loaded with gear, she could carry 1323 pounds, draw 10.5 inches  and still have over 13 inches of freeboard at the lowest point of the sheer.

Under normal loading, she planes at 20+mph with an 8hp outboard. Sam recently built one of these as a tender for his beloved Josephine, and reports that he loves it.

Candlefish13

For the full story, read Sam’s design notes on the Candlefish 13.

The Devlin Candlefish 13 is available in study and full construction plans and as a CNC cut hull kit.

 

Candlefish 13 Specifications

Length 13 ft. – 4 in.
Beam 4 ft. – 11 in.
Draft 4.5 in.
Displacement 445 lbs.
Dry Weight 165 lbs.
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Candlefish 13 Design Notes

Did the horse come before the cart or the cart before the Horse? A dumb question but in the case of the Candlefish 13 and the Candlefish 16 which came first is a legitimate question? The answer is that the Candlefish 13 was the first of these two designs and while the Candlefish 16 was built before the 13 by no means does this diminish the importance of the design.

The Candlefish 13 was originally designed for Tom McLain of Fairbanks, Alaska and I include the original copy of the design commission listing the requirements for the boat and parameters

January 30, 2006

Custom Design for Tom McLain

Email XXXXXXXXXXXXX

X.X.XXX XXXX Fairbanks, Alaska XXXXX

XXX-XXX-XXXX Work Number

XXX-XXX-XXXX   Home Number

Charge for Preliminary Design XXX with rights for first boat only

Paid by check #XXXX

50% down to start design and 50% on delivery of plans

Total cost of the design XXX

14’ ft. Cartoppable outboard skiff

Length 14ft

48”? or slightly more Beam

Needs to be less than 150-180 lbs for the basic boat, has to be lifted overhead to a rack on a 5th wheel towing Dodge one ton truck

For use in the Hi-Latitudes on far Northern lakes or non-whitewater bodies of water

Wants to use a 6-10hp. Outboard engine on the stern for power.

As Stable and Deep a boat as what Tom and Friends or Wife can manage to lift onto rack

Floorboards could be removable or even not necessary and seat thwarts also

Will be carried upside down on the truck rack

Gregor Boats H 42 model is an alum. This is a similar boat design that Tom likes (good research)

Coming down on June 30th to visit… Likes idea of cargo hatch in middle of the boat… 6/22/06

To respect Tom’s privacy I have X’d out the vital money details and address of this agreement but you can plainly see a small, Cartoppable, very seaworthy skiff was desired. Did Tom ever build the first boat to the design, I can’t answer that for sure as he has not sent me construction or action photos of her yet, but I still think that she would fit the bill for cruising, hunting, exploring far northern waters or freshwater lakes very well.

During the design phase of the project I always find myself using these boats in my mind, in some cases for the same use and waters as the customer is planning on, but sometimes my own mental voyages are even more exacting than the original design commission. For this design I could easily see myself planning to do a couple of weeks of Moose hunting on a far northern lake with my friends Sven and Ollie, using the Candlefish to transport all the gear necessary from our launch site to the hunting campsite. Each day would involve using the boat to travel to a different part of Lake for the days hunting and if we were really lucky and good shots after getting a Moose down, using her to transport the meat back to camp, and then finally back to the launching area and road. A big Moose can weigh over 1500 lbs. and this would be a lot of meat, more than most boats could handle with one load. So I did a bit of calculation on how efficient the Candlefish 13 would be as a meat freighter. At her normal lines she displaces 441 lbs. just enough for an adult and the weight of the boat and motor and at this weight only drafts or draws 4.5” skinny inches of water. If I figure that the boat weights in at 150lbs. and she uses a 100 lb. motor we can come up with some interesting figures of weight and loading. By increasing the draft 2” to a still skinny 6.5” total draft now she displaces 538 lbs, by increasing it again 2” to 8.5” total draft she weights or displaces 918 lbs. And on the ultimate hunting trip or in this example ferrying out a Moose carcass she could draft 10.5”, carry 1323 lbs. of weight total and still have over 13” of freeboard at the lowest spot of the sheer. This little “Candlefish 13’ was designed to do just that job and with her cargo hold in the middle and forward bow stowage areas, a really great, seaworthy little boat resulted. But how about those of you that want to use her on a lake in Minnesota, or maybe even trailer her down to Sea of Cortez for a camp cruising adventure, truth is she is up for all of that or even the more mundane crabbing expedition on Puget Sound or a fishing trip to a high mountain lake.

How is her performance? Well with an 8hp. outboard even with some good loading she will still go well over the 20 miles per hour mark and with a boat like this you can go as fast as you have horsepower to apply to her. Her transom could take anything from a modest 6hp, up to a 25 horse outboard motor and you’ll just have to make those decisions on your own, how fast you want to go, how much money you want to spend on the outboard, and how portable (how heavy an outboard ) do you want to keep on her?

I think she accomplishes Tom’s goals with “panache” in fact maybe I should have named her just that, but in any case a simple, seaworthy, trailerable or even car-toppable skiff can be a real joy to build, own, and play with.

Plans are $65 dollars and with about $850 dollars worth of materials you can build your own.

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Candlefish 16

The Candlefish 16 is a burdensome fishing skiff. Deep and seaworthy, it is wonderfully suited to life in our changeable weather and strong tides. Deep enough to keep her occupants dry and light enough to launch off the beach, she’s perfect with 10 to 30 hp.

Lockable storage and enclosed flotation augment the factor of safety and add a great deal of rigidity to her 16-foot length. She’s the boating version of a pickup truck. Strong, rugged, and versatile.

Easy to build to a workboat fit and finish, or take as much time as you want to showcase your craftsmanship. The choice is yours, but either way she makes a wonderful utility skiff.

6-Presentation

For the detailed thinking behind the Candlefish 16, read Sam’s design notes.

The Candlefish 16 is available as plans or a CNC cut kit.

 

Candlefish 16 Specifications

Length 15 ft. – 10 7/16 in.
Beam 5 ft. – 9 13/16 in.
Draft 6 in.
Displacement 714 lbs.
Dry Weight 325 lbs.
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Candlefish 16 Design Notes

I am guessing that most designers spend a great deal of time musing about the use of these little boats that we design, and as we mature and our lives change, there seems to be a never-ending string of little boats to dream after, create (first on paper), and then, if we are lucky enough, to build and have the enjoyment of using them in real life and see how our ideas worked.  But they always start out as a simple daydream, done most effectively during some armchair time spent with a beverage and perhaps an aromatic pipe or cigar adding a bit of spice to the scene. The little Candlefish 16 was the by-product of one of those daydreams, the seed no doubt planted on some cold, winter day with a vision of some beach cruising in some warm place, perhaps Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, with the sky an azure blue, the water crystalline clear and clean, and a warm beach waiting to be explored – remote, uninhabited and with treasures galore to be discovered.

Enter the Candlefish 16, an almost perfect size for such explorations with a good, light dry weight, easy to launch by hand off the beach and with performance enough to satisfy the tyro in me.  This is really just a pointed bow open skiff with an outboard on the stern but with some very interesting twists to it.  For power, I picked an outboard motor, tiller steered from 10 to 30 hp., depending on how fast one wants to run and how much load is expected to be carried.  The parallel to the Candlefish 16 in the automotive world is a Toyota Tacoma Pickup and this is really just a marine version of a small truck of a boat with the capability of carrying a good load, some lockable stowage, foam flotation in the ends and deep enough to be seaworthy in just about any sea condition.

Let’s start on this inspection of the boat with a profile (sideways for you landlubbers) look at her – a strong sheered multi-chined hull that looks just about right to my eye.  She is plenty deep, in fact, perhaps just a little bit too deep but that will pay dividends the first time I linger a bit too long beachcombing when the afternoon trades kick in.  That’s the time when I will be happy to have the extra freeboard and it should help greatly to get me off the beach and to keep me dry and safe in all sorts of sea-conditions.  Looking from the plan view (that is the overhead, or top view) at the boat, adjacent to the stern there are two longitudinal seats on each side of the rear of the boat.   I always intended to tiller steer the Candlefish and so with those seats, I can steer left handed or right depending on my daily preference.  There is plenty of leg room in front of the seats for those stiff arthritic knees of mine and forward of the seats is an interesting mid-deck area, a sort of cargo hold.  This is lockable and holds a lot of gear, including a battery box if the electric start outboard I was drooling over was sprung for.  The mid-deck keeps passengers forward and out of my way and is a handy height for re-baiting crab or shrimp traps or to remove our catch if successful. Passengers can sit on the forward edge of the mid-deck and if they have bad backs, I can reach into the cargo hatch and pull out simple, but very efficient, folding padded seats for them to lean back on.  They will have their own leg space forward and a small forward deck (bulwarked by the hull sides and bulkhead #1) to allow the anchor to be chocked down on top of and with the rode stowed in the stowage and flotation space below.  This forward work deck really functions well with my dog occasionally perched on the bowdeck in figurehead position, ears all a-flappin in the wind.

The Candlefish’s hull is planked up from good 5ply,  9mm mahogany marine plywood.   She is built Stitch and Glue style over 4 full bulkheads and is strong and stiff.   With a hull sheathing of Dynel cloth set in epoxy and with her purpleheart keel and bilge keels, she keeps her hull off the bottom when beaching and is strong and easy to maintain.  For my own boat, I am going to shoot a tinted colored truck bed liner on the inside of her in a soft grey and paint the outside topsides of the hull a creamy white with green bottom paint on her to set off her nice lines.  On the gunwales, I will screw on Dacron Gunwale guard all around the perimeter to help keep me off all the lovely boats at anchor that I might visit and it saves carrying around a boatload of fenders to fend me off docks and pilings.

If you are so inclined, with about $1,500 dollars in materials and 200 hours labor, you can dream up your own adventures.  The shop must be warmed up by now with a charge of the scrap wood of yesterday’s efforts already burned down low in the stove and I am off to whittle away on her…

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Bella 10 Skiff

Bell10Stripe

The Bella 10, formerly known as the 5×10 skiff, is probably the easiest way to get started in boatbuilding in the entire Devlin catalog, if not the entire world.  Originally designed to teach boatbuilding technique, the Bella is an easy building, elegant design that comes together in a fast rowing, lightweight skiff. She’s a great family project. At 52 pounds, she is easy to handle and launch. She will fit easily into a pickup truck bed; no special requirements to transport or store the Bella 10. Finally, she is our least expensive kit. Building your own boat doesn’t get any easier. Available as plans or low-cost CNC cut kits.

Read Sam’s design notes on the Bella 10.

Bella 10 Specifications

Length 9 ft. – 8.5 in.
Beam 3 ft. – 8.75 in.
Draft 6.125 in.
Displacement 305 lbs.
Dry Weight 52 lbs.
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Bella 10 Skiff Design notes

In my explanation for the 5 x 10 Skiff (see below), I left room for a better name recommendation. Thus, the Bella 10 was born. A customer came in with a requirement for a 12 foot version of our successful 5 x 10 Skiff. Being the prolific, talented, and handsome designers we are at Devlin Boats, a decision was made to round out this little corner of our Design Catalog with three models. The 5 x 10 remains the same, albeit with a different name. This series has come to be named after my faithful black lab, Bella. For more than a decade she has accompanied me on all manner of nautical adventures and something about a little skiff just looks more “right” with a dog involved. It’s a perfect name. I even showed her the completed plans. She was not impressed but later that same day, I noticed a distant look in her eyes which I can only surmise is born of her mid-winter dreams of spending a little time on her namesake, fooling about the bay with her best friend!

These little boats are certain to prove just as faithful as ‘ol Bella. We’d love to put a bunch of pictures of these finished little skiffs up on the website. Don’t forget the dog!

This is a funny name for a boat design and I have received no lack of advice on changes or improvements to it that might fit into our normal bird and fish boat name themes. But the more observant of you might notice that there are plenty of examples where in the past, I have named a design outside of those themes. A look at the Nancy’s China design as an example of this fact would show this as there is no known bird or fish (to my knowledge) that carries that particular name although, I would be greatly honored if some scientist would choose to name a new discovery after our venerable small sloop design. So my friends, the name 5X10 will stick, at least until someone recommends a really proper substitution, as it is simply too descriptive of this little boat to be replaced.

The origin of the design wasn’t a design commission from some yachtsman looking for a small skiff to row about as his lovely mothership gently rotates on the hook in some picturesque anchorage. Nor some explorer looking for a skiff to row ashore in the Broughton group of islands in British Columbia to view an old, abandoned First Nations village or campsite looking for shards of flint or jade from some ancient tool making pit, even though either of these purposes might be more than perfect for this little skiff. It was designed to fill the simple need of a proper teaching tool at the Woodenboat School in Brooklin, Maine for my Stitch and Glue boatbuilding class.

In the past, my usual subject boat to build at the Woodenboat School was our Peeper skiff, an 11 foot 8 inch long, simple and nice rowing skiff that (2) 4 foot x 8 foot sheets of ¼ inch plywood joined end to end could build. But I kept being confronted with a problem. The Woodenboat School kicks off each week of its classes on Sunday evening with a group orientation and introduction. At the conclusion of this session, each class and its students separate to their respective classrooms for an hour or two of further introductions while each instructor gives a review of what the coming week will be comprised of. In my youth, this schedule worked fine with part of my own time that evening spent doing the simple scarf cuts in the plywood that would be used for the week’s projects and gluing them up that same night, ready to rock the next day. But as I age, I don’t seem to have the piss and vinegar that I once had. I prefer a more casual evening with more of a meet-the-students session and less of a watch-Sam-work-hard for a couple of hours. With the Peeper design, that meant that if I didn’t scarf the two sheets of plywood together that Sunday evening with the cutting and gluing all happening at a time when I would rather be meeting my students, then we would be a day behind schedule to complete the project boats. This would be difficult in a compressed schedule of 4 ½ working days in which even in the best of situations, building several small boats in a classroom is challenging.

So what I needed was a good rowing skiff that could be built without the scarfing part of the building process, thus leaving Sunday evening to getting acquainted with my students and not having the pressure of doing a fast scarf job to get in the way. With a little scratching of my head (in this case just a couple of weeks before the class was to be held), I thought of using some of the good and increasingly available 5 foot x 10 foot marine plywood that is around these days. If I kept the design narrower than the normal fat dingy type, it might be able to be built with the 5 x 10 marine plywood and still produce a proper rowing skiff that could carry its rower comfortably with a much more thoroughbred performance in its movement through the water. The goal was that that whole boat had to be able to be built from the one sheet of plywood with just a little dimensional lumber added for the seat-top, gunwales, stem and skeg, which was a good challenge.

The result is this lovely little design and I am proud to report that the first three models were built at the 2009 Woodenboat School and on Saturday morning, we launched the first of the completed (but not final painted) prototypes. She floated on her lines properly, a designer’s biggest potential nightmare, and even more importantly, she rowed like a proper little skiff, moving thru the water with ease and provided the oarsman with a rewarding rowing performance. Best of all, it only required one sheet of plywood to build her, a fine design accomplishment!

The current price of a sheet of 5 foot x 10 foot 6mm (1/4) BS 1088 Marine Plywood is $135 dollars. With a few gallons of epoxy and a couple of planks of 3/4 inch hardwood, you can build your own version. By the way, she is narrow enough to fit into the bed of any pickup and only weighs a scant 52 pounds dripping wet. What a fine way to spend a few hours, both building and using her! – Sam Devlin

Original 5×10 Notes:

This is a funny name for a boat design and I have received no lack of advice on changes or improvements to it that might fit into our normal bird and fish theme series of boat names. But the more observant of you might notice that there are plenty of examples where in the past, I have named a design outside of those themes. A look at the “Nancy’s China” design as an example of this fact would show this as there is no known bird or fish (to my knowledge) that carries that particular name (although I would be greatly honored if some scientist would choose to name a new discovery after our venerable small sloop design). So my friends, the name “5X10” will stick (at least until someone recommends a really proper substitution) as it is simply too descriptive to this little boat to be replaced.

The origin of the design wasn’t a design commission from some yachtsman looking for a small skiff to row about as his lovely mothership gently rotates on the hook in some picturesque anchorage. Nor some explorer looking for a skiff to row ashore in the Broughton group of islands in British Columbia to view an old, abandoned First Nations village or campsite looking for shards of flint or jade from some ancient tool making pit, even though either of these purposes might be more than perfect for this little skiff. It was designed to fill the simple need of a proper teaching tool at the Woodenboat School in Brooklin, Maine for the 2009 semester.

In the past, my usual subject boat to build at Woodenboat School was the “Peeper” skiff, an 11ft 8in long, simple and nice rowing skiff that (2) 4ft x 8ft sheets of plywood joined end to end could build. But I kept being confronted with a problem and that was the Woodenboat School kicks off each week of its classes on the starting Sunday evening of the respective week of the school with a group orientation and introduction.   At the conclusion of this session, each class and its students separate to their respective classrooms for an hour or two of further introductions and theoretically, each instructor will give a review of what the coming week will be comprised of. Now I am getting a bit older (each day older if I remember correctly) and I don’t quite have the piss and vinegar that I once had. I prefer to talk a bit and listen to my students stories of why they have traveled all the way to Maine just to spend a week with me to actually working, if for only that first evening. With the “Peeper” design that meant that if I didn’t scarf the two sheets of plywood together that Sunday evening with the cutting and gluing all happening at a time when I would rather be meeting my students, then we would be a day behind schedule to complete the project boats. This would be difficult in a compressed schedule in which even in the best of situations, building several small boats in a classroom in what amounts to 4 1/2 working days.

So what I needed was a good rowing skiff that could be built without the scarfing part of the building process, thus leaving the Sunday evening to getting acquainted with my students, and not having the pressure of doing a fast scarf job to hold our schedule to get in the way. With a little scratching of my head (in this case just a couple of weeks before the class was to be held), I thought of using some of the good and increasingly available 5ft. X 10ft. marine plywood that is around these days. If I kept the design narrower than the normal fat dingy type, it might be able to be built with the 5 x 10 marine plywood and still produce a proper rowing skiff that could carry its rower comfortably with a much more thoroughbred performance with its movement through the water. The goal was that that whole boat had to be able to be built from the one sheet of plywood with just a little dimensional lumber added for the seat-top, gunwales, stem and skeg, which was a good challenge.

The result is this lovely little design and I am proud to report that the first three models were built at the 2009 Woodenboat School and on Saturday morning, we launched the first of the completed (but not final painted) prototypes. She floated on her lines properly, the designer’s biggest potential nightmare, and even more important, she rowed like a proper little skiff, moving thru the water with ease and provided a rewarding rowing performance. But even more importantly, it only required one sheet of plywood to build her – a fine design accomplishment!

I am currently building one to accompany my “Josephine” and think that she is going to see a lot of duty on our adventures between Olympia and Alaska in the coming years.

The current price of a sheet of 5ft. X 10ft. 6mm (1/4”) BS 1088 Marine Plywood is $135 dollars. With a few gallons of epoxy and a couple of planks of 3/4” hardwood, you can build your own version. By the way, she is narrow enough to fit into the bed of any pickup and only weighed a scant 52 lbs dripping wet.

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Lit’l Coot Design Notes

Recently I was working on the plans for a small under 20ft. Pocket Sailor design but found during the process I couldn’t help but think about another design, one roughly the same size and in many respects similar in use, but the type I zeroed in on was a small Motorsailer.  This “Litl Coot” design is the result of my musings and dreams.  Now in this case, despite being my own design customer, I still needed to stay focused and set up a list of design parameters that the new design would accommodate.  First of all she needed to be very trailerable with the capability of sitting on a powerboat type trailer low and compact enough to be able to be backed into a garage or storage shed without any special needs.  So right away that got rid of any notion that I would need to design a deep keel for her.  I flirted with the idea of leeboards but quickly realized that a couple of hardwood Bilge Keels,  along with a centerline small shoe keel and aft skeg, would be just the ticket. The bilge keels also had the additional benefit that they would allow her to beach out level and upright if I got caught by a quickly receding tide in some of the shallow and very tidal bays that I was dreaming of using her on.  If you are a fan of classic literature, there is an excellent novel written just before World War One titled “Riddle of the Sands”.  The story is based near the Friesian Islands located off the N.W. shore of Holland and Germany.  These waters are a very tidal area and the descriptions of the main character straying off the dredged and poorly marked channels and getting caught on the sands in his shoal draft boat with all the extra adventures that one would have with that scenario, has always been appealing to me.  Anyway, it’s a great read. As I recollect, this is either one of the first or the very first Mystery Adventure novels written by Erskine Childers and it has had a prominent position in my library for many years.

But back to the “Litl Coot” design – once I had made the decision to give her bilge keels, that meant all her ballast needed to be in the bilge and my plan is to use recycled lead shot (I buy mine from one of the local trap and skeet shooting ranges) which is very nice to work with, all cleaned, in small canvas bags weighing 30 lbs. each and ready to be mixed with epoxy and set into her bilge.  I usually plan on casting about 75-85% of the anticipated ballast (in this case 600 lbs) before launching and then finish off the final ballasting after checking her trim in the water and re-assuring myself that the weight is located where it is most needed to keep her floating level and on her lines.  That reminds me of a story, several years ago my long-term landlord at my main shop (which I have rented for 28 years now) told me one day just after we had launched a new boat, that one of the things that amazed him most of all about my designing and building boats was how accurately I could predict the floating of the boat level and on her lines.  Well that was quite a compliment and I think that if I remember properly that I tried to pass it off as not being that hard to do! Within just a couple of weeks we had occasion to launch another new build (different design, one that we hadn’t built before) and the new vessel floated down on her lines by the stern. We had to add some (actually read quite a lot of) extra chain in her anchor locker to get her settled down on her lines (as designed). I often wondered if my landlord had somehow jinxed me by saying that they all floated on their lines so nicely, and having missed the mark on the very next boat project, the whole experience sobered me considerably.   It should go without saying that on the next design I spent almost twice as much time as I usually did on the weight study trying to not make the same mistake twice.

But back to our musings about the “Litl Coot” – now that we’ve got the keels on her and the ballast settled, it’s time to think about that engine package.  This is a pure 50/50 Motorsailer and on this size boat, I think the little 9.9 horsepower Yamaha 4 cycle engine in hi-thrust configuration is just about ideal.  It’s a great little engine, barely sips fuel, is almost soundless at idle and will work on this design very well.  But here I was confronted with a problem. With many small sailboats, if we make a centerline rudder and hang the outboard on some sort of scissoring bracket to one side of the stern, when sailing on the tack where the outboard is to the lee side, you will find the end of the lower unit of the outboard dragging in the water.  There might be a couple of solutions to this problem, we could move the outboard closer to the centerline, but if we are not really careful then there is a really good chance that sooner or later you will hit the prop with the rudder while doing some short maneuvering in a docking or mooring situation.  If you place the engine further away from the rudder you’ve exaggerated the problem of the drag of the lower unit and prop of the outboard (and I hate dragging something like that when trying to sail).  So my solution for the “Litl Coot” was to place the motor on the centerline of the transom, and by using a long shaft outboard we will be able to keep the lower unit from dragging on the lee side tack (as there is no lee side to a centerline mounted engine) and both the motoring and the sailing will be without compromise.  Now with the engine on the centerline that meant in order to be able to steer her under sail, I needed to find a way to either mount a rudder off the centerline or an even better solution was to use twin rudders that have tillers that tie together into a common link arm. The additional benefit of the twin rudders allowed them to not extend into the water quite as deeply as if I had used just a single rudder and conforms rather nicely with our requirement of being able to sit level and upright in grounding situations without any necessity to lift the rudders up or have some sort of swing blades on them.  Once we joined the two tillers together into a single link arm then my next problem of how to allow an inside steering station to be rigged was easily assisted by having one common link with simple shackles made up to fixed lines (when desiring the inside steering station) and led through turning blocks to a fore and aft pivoting vertical tiller that will be fixed in the pilothouse on the starboard side. If I desire to steer from this inside station, I can sit in a comfortable seat on the starboard side facing forward and steer her by either pushing or pulling on the tiller. There is enough drag in this type of steering system to keep the helm steady for short periods of time if I needed to have her self steering while fixing a spot of tea or perhaps making a snack.

One of the main ideas with this design is that all functions could be done while sailing, or motoring, solo. There is room to take a buddy along but you don’t necessarily have to, in fact there might be a lot of days when just my dog “Bella” might be the perfect crew for an adventure on the “Litl Coot”.  So all the halyards, topping lifts, etc. are lead aft to the sides of the pilothouse. With her little mizzen sail set up and left rigged most of the time either under sail or under power, she will have the wonderful capability to have a balanced helm under different wind and tacking conditions, and the mizzen would help to keep her steady on a mooring, or at anchor when holed up for a rest.

For easy and quick set up when launching from trailer I designed a tabernacle hinged Mainmast setting a rig that I would call a Cat Yawl (although under some definitions this might also be described as a Cat Ketch, the mizzen being stepped ahead of the rudders) configuration.  This style of rig keeps the sail area where it is needed for balance under sail and is a very simple to use, with literally no re-sheeting necessary as one tacks from board to board.  With the process of rigging the Mainmast simply being a matter of rotating up the mast in its tabernacle, set up the forestay on the bail above the Stainless Steel anchor roller up on the bow, and insert a pin into the bottom of the tabernacle and you are ready to launch.  Keeping the mast up in the eyes of the boat also allowed me to have a top hinged window on the front of the pilothouse for sailing or motoring on warm days.  This allows lots of wind in the face but reduces the chance of getting too much sun on my already overly exposed face, if I choose to be inside in the shade of the pilothouse.

So we now have a boat that can sit on a trailer, fit in a normal sized garage for berthage when we aren’t using her, an inside and outside steering arrangement, a couple of berths for doing some simple cruise/camping, and one that will sail or motor at a fairly efficient level whether the wind is blowing or not.  And did I add that she is towable behind most of the small-to-mid sized SUVss or Pickups? She also is a boat that will allow me to explore the really shallow and fringe cruising areas that more conventional sailboats with their deep keels can’t even think about sailing in.  I can sail her either on my own or with crew, but again all systems and setup can be done on my own if that is the way I choose to use her.  In final expression I have found the “Litl Coot” to be absolutely beguiling during her design stages and my armchair cruises have been wonderful, built around her platform.  My best guess is that her real life adventures might be just as good or better, and that adds a lot of spice to my life, just the ticket for a modern, busy world!

Amateur plans are $195 and consist of 16 drawings printed on 24X36 inch paper and a simple building booklet. You can either buy printed sets of plans directly from us or buy a download version and print on your own. We are now producing basic hull kits for her or we could build you the whole boat if you would like, and very soon I look forward to seeing many of these little Cat Yawls on the water.

Sam Devlin

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Lit’l Coot

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The Lit’l Coot is a wonderful little pocket cruiser, ideally suited to the waters of Puget Sound or the inside passage.

She is trailerable on a small powerboat style trailer, and compact enough to store in the average residential garage. The bilge keels allow her to beach out level and upright if caught by the tide.

A 9.9 4 cycle outboard is about ideal, economical and quiet. Unlike most small sailboats of this size, the outboard is offset to clear the rudder. The result is that on either tack, the motor is not in an ideal position. Sam has solved that problem by fitting dual rudders. Superior.

The tabernacle hinged mast makes rigging at the boat launch a breeze. Simply raise the mast, attach the forestay to the anchor roller and pin the tabernacle. Easy.

For the details, check out Sam’s design notes for the Lit’l Coot.

Lit’l Coot 18 study and construction plans available. It’s also available as  a CNC cut kit.

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